A leading airline in the Middle East announced on Monday that passengers — departing to and arriving from the United States — will be prohibited from carrying on most electronic devices, including laptops, tablets, and cameras.
Royal Jordanian posted a notice to its verified Twitter and Facebook accounts.
Cellphones and medical devices are excluded. Starting March 21, the prohibited devices can be carried in checked baggage only.
The statement said Royal Jordanian followed instructions from “concerned US departments.” The Transportation Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security told USA TODAY, “We have no comment on potential security precautions, but will provide any update as appropriate.”
Travel reporter Bart Jansen speculated in the absence of specific details that the restriction could be an enhancement of requirements in 2014, which requires travelers en route to the U.S. to turn off electronics before boarding overseas.
Air Jordanian did not mention the concern of batteries and fire hazards, but dozens of aircraft fires have been caused by lithium batteries, which are used in phones and computers.
One incident involves a Fiji Airways Boeing 737 in 2014. It was preparing for takeoff from Melbourne, Australia, when smoke was discovered coming from the cargo bay. The plane was evacuated and the cargo unloaded. The source of the fire turned out to be lithium-ion batteries in a passenger’s checked bags.
Lithium-ion batteries store a lot of energy in a tiny space, with combustible components separated by ultra-thin walls. If something happens to those separators, a chemical reaction can quickly escalate out of control.
But lithium batteries are so ubiquitous that ordinary users of phones and computers shouldn’t worry, according to Associated Press Tech Writer Mae Anderson.
Research suggests that you’re more likely to get hurt by a kitchen grease fire or a drunk driver than the battery powering your iPhone, Kindle or laptop.