US President Donald Trump’s decision to disallow gadgets bigger than smartphones as cabin baggage in flights originating from some Gulf countries has come a sa windfall of sorts for national carrier Air India.
The nationalized carrier has seen a huge surge in demand for tickets to the US on its flights. Air India says passenger traffic from the Middle East, bound for the US, has begun moving eastwards towards India.
"A small percentage of passengers from Dubai, Kuwait, Muscat have booked tickets into India to transit from Delhi, Mumbai and then fly to the US from here. Last week, the passenger load on flights from the Gulf to India was about 83 per cent which is a tad high for this time of the year. Because of the laptop ban, we expect the number to go up in the coming weeks,'' said an Air India official told Times Of India, adding ticket sales to the US have shot up 60 per cent since the ban came into effect on March 25.
The US ban affects Middle Eastern carriers because of the International Civil Aviation Organisation-defined freedoms under which airlines operate flights. As a result, flights operated by carriers like Emirates, Etihad (Jet Airways flights that transit from Abu Dhabi), Qatar Airways, Saudia, etc. have to do a transit halt in the Middle East before they fly to the US, so passengers on board these flights come under the purview of the laptop ban.
To its advantage, Air India does not bar passengers who board its flights for US destinations from carrying as well as using gadgets in the cabin, irrespective of their nationality. Since Indian airports are not on the US ban list, Air India passengers can carry laptops in their cabin bags.
The agreement between India and Middle Eastern carriers is such that carriers from both these countries can fly directly to the US or any other foreign destination only from their homeland. What this effectively means is that if a Middle Eastern carrier has to fly directly to the US, it can do so only from its own airport like Dubai, Doha, Abu Dhabi, all of which are in the US laptop ban list.