Australia tightens airport security, screens laptops

Australia said on Friday (Mar 31) it will increase security checks for flights from some Middle East airports, but stopped short of implementing the laptop ban introduced by the United States and Britain.

Britain and the US banned laptops and tablet computers in cabins on flights from some countries in the Middle East and North Africa earlier this month, citing fears of possible attacks.

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“Explosive detection screening will be conducted for randomly selected passengers and their baggage. Checks may also include targeted screening of electronic devices,” Transport Minister Darren Chester said in a statement.

“Our changes are in line with the UK, which recently announced that people travelling from Doha, Abu Dhabi and Dubai will be subject to random explosive trace detection screening. “There is no ban on the carriage of electronic devices on flights to Australia at this stage.”

The airlines affected are Qantas Airways, Etihad Airways, Emirates, and Qatar Airways. The increase security checks will hit passengers flying direct to Australia from Doha, Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Chester said there was “no specific threat to Australia”.

“In response to national security advice the federal government has made precautionary changes and instructed airlines to implement new protocols from next week.”

US officials said their measure was intended to thwart possible attacks on airliners with small explosive devices hidden in consumer electronics.

Alexandre de Juniac, director general of the International Air Transport Association, said Wednesday the American and British bans were not sustainable.

“Even in the short term, it is difficult to understand their effectiveness. And the commercial distortions they create are severe,” he said in a speech in Canada.

The US ban affects nine airlines from eight countries – Turkey, Morocco, Jordan, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. The British ban targets flights out of Egypt, Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Lebanon.

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