The unintended consequences of the selective American bans on the major Middle East airlines continue, with Qatar Airways expanding its US network to include San Francisco from next year.
This will see the Doha based carrier serve 15 US cities, three more than currently included in the American network of Dubai based Emirates. Last week Abu Dhabi based Etihad said business to the US was so good* its was doubling its A380 services to New York from this June.
This leaves Emirates, the largest of the so called ME3 carriers, as the only one that has reduced capacity into the US as a consequence of Trump administration requirements that it render its jets less safe by prohibiting the inbound carriage of fire prone laptops and phones by passengers in the cabins, where any such battery failures could be dealt with more safely individually and in accordance with international accepted combustion containment recommendations.
Those safety recommendations were formulated by America’s FAA or Federal Aviation Administration and widely adopted, including by Australia, but denied, on Presidential fiat, from being applied to Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways flights into the US, but not on Emirates flights via Greece or Italy, nor on flights from Saudi Arabia, where President Trump has a financial interest.
This stinking exercise in maladministration has violated the integrity of the FAA, as the universality of safety regulations is considered one of the foundations of safe flight. US media reports have consistently argued that the Trump directives were influenced by anti Middle East carrier lobbying by the US3, American Airlines, Delta and United, who claim that the ME3 have unfairly benefited from sovereign ownership on routes over which they don’t actually fly anyhow.
The fundamental justification made for the device bans into US cities was ‘intelligence’ that miniature bombs inside mobile phones were a terrorism risk, although not from Saudi Arabia, or even via two cities in Europe. That risk is of course made much worse by having such a device consigned to the underbelly of a jet rather than inspected at a passenger level on check-in, which is what happens elsewhere in the world, where that sort of stupidity is less evident in most airport security arrangements.
*New York’s gain is however Melbourne’s pain, as Etihad is reported by Australian Business Traveller as having cancelled that city’s A380 service, downgrading its offering to the standards of its 777-300ERs and later, its 787-9s.