April 23, 2017 / 4:24 PM / 3 years ago

Qatar Airways could drop New Zealand route if laptops banned

DUBAI/WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Qatar Airways would consider cancelling flights to Auckland if New Zealand follows the United States in banning laptops and other large electronic devices on Middle East flights, its chief executive said on Monday.

New Zealand is considering additional security checks on flights from some countries in the Middle East after similar measures were introduced last month by the United States, Britain and Australia.

“Well we will have to then measure if it’s really worth us still flying to New Zealand or not,” Qatar Airways CEO Akbar al-Baker told reporters in Dubai.

Middle Eastern carriers have seen demand on U.S. routes drop after attempts by President Donald Trump’s administration to restrict travel from some Muslim countries.

Qatar Airways says the decline is manageable, though Emirates said this month it would cut flights on five U.S. destinations from May.

New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English said the aviation agency would make a decision on whether to restrict large electronic items independently of the government.

“A number of our security partners put those arrangements in place. With this particular proposition there’s a balance between inconvenience for passengers, many of whom live off their laptop, on the one hand, but, on the other hand, it’s making sure that the flying is safe,” English told reporters in Wellington.

Transport Minister Simon Bridges told Reuters in an interview in Dubai on Sunday that the Civil Aviation Authority was “assessing the evidence to determine what is appropriate”.

Qatar Airways launched it only New Zealand service in February with direct flights to Auckland from Doha, one of the world’s longest commercially operated scheduled routes.

“It’s performing good but you know if we are imposed with bans which would affect our traffic then we will have to reconsider,” al-Baker said. “It is a very expensive route for us to operate.”

The United Arab Emirates is the only other Middle Eastern country with direct air links to New Zealand, operated by Emirates from Dubai.

The CAA said in a statement that it was routinely monitoring security screening in international airports and that there was no specific timeframe for when a decision would be made.

Reporting by Alexander Cornwell in DUBAI and Charlotte Greenfield in WELLINGTON; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Robin Pomeroy

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