DUBLIN (Reuters) - Militants would be able to get around a ban on carrying large electronic items into the cabins of planes bound for the United States by travelling from cities not impacted by the ban, Qatar Airways’ chief executive was quoted as saying on Friday.
The U.S. introduced security measures on March 25 banning electronic gadgets larger than a mobile phone from passenger cabins on direct flights to the United States from 10 airports in the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey, including Qatar.
“Instead of going from the airports where there is a ban, they will go to airports where there is no ban,” Akbar Al Baker told the Irish Times in an interview.
“And there are no bans in certain airports that are very risky – I don’t want to name them – but it is far easier to get on to aeroplanes from those places than it is with us.”
Announcement of the restrictions prompted some media speculation it was aimed at protecting U.S. airlines by stifling the growth of the fast-expanding Gulf carriers and Turkish Airlines, a theory dismissed by U.S. officials and many experts.
Gulf airlines Qatar, Emirates and Etihad Airways have been battling a lobbying campaign in Washington by U.S. carriers that accuse them of receiving unfair subsidies, charges that the Gulf carriers deny and which Al Baker dismissed.
“We got equity, not taxpayers’ money, and we were given enough equity for us to be independent, which we are today, and we have to show profit,” he was quoted saying.
“We are buying American aeroplanes in big numbers and we are providing jobs. Every single flight we do brings economic benefits to the U.S. So to us, America is first.”
The newspaper also quoted Al Baker as saying Qatar did not plan to increase its 20 percent stake in British Airways-owner IAG.
Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by David Holmes