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03-04-2017 14:30 | Read 1500 times

Ercan braced for flight ban chaos

Ercan airport staff are bracing themselves for “mass confusion” as new measures come into force today in line with US and British government restrictions on carrying electronic devices on flights from Turkey.

Ercan braced for flight ban chaos

By KEREM HASAN
Chief Reporter

The new regulations, which also affect anyone flying to the US and UK from a number of countries in the Middle East and north Africa, will mean that travellers will have to put laptops, tablets, e-readers and similar-sized gadgets into their hold luggage.

The measures were believed to have been taken after security services identified a new terrorist bomb threat.

They also apply to those transiting through Turkey – which means all flights from the TRNC are affected.

Erkut Öznergis, a spokesman for Cyprus Aviation Services (CAS), which handles baggage at Ercan for a number of airlines, said signs in Turkish and English would be placed at all check-in desks from today to notify passengers.

“This means that all electronic devices, laptops, mobile phones and smartphones that do not conform to the specified measurements must be placed securely in baggage that will be checked in,” he said.

“This will be the first day of enforcing this tight security ban and we anticipate mass confusion . . . We ask all passengers to take extra care when packing their electrical equipment.”

Under the new arrangements, devices over16cm in length, 9.3cm wide and 1.5cm thick will not be allowed in the cabin, even if bought at a duty-free shop.

“Normal-sized” smartphones, such an iPhone 7 Plus, Samsung Galaxy 7 Edge, Samsung Galaxy Note 3, LG G3 or Sony Xperia Z2, will be allowed as hand luggage as they are within the dimensions.

Medical devices, hairdryers, straighteners, travel irons, electrical shavers and e-cigarettes can still be taken into the cabin.

Zeki Ziya, TRNC manager for Pegasus Airlines, which operates daily flights to London’s Stansted airport via İstanbul and İzmir, told Cyprus Today the restrictions had been “imposed on them” by the British authorities.

“Although there are no problems travelling from Ercan to Turkey with devices on board like an iPad or a laptop, because of the nature of the touchdown in Turkey . . . we ask that they . . . put [the devices] into their hold luggage.”

TRNC AtlasGlobal sales and marketing officer Yunus Öz called on customers to be patient as staff grappled with the new procedures.

“If passengers travelling from Ercan airport are going to reclaim their baggage at İstanbul Atatürk airport and then check in [separately] for their flight to London, then there won’t be any problem,” he explained.

“If, however, they are transiting via İstanbul . . . the prohibited electrical gadgets must be in the checked-in luggage [at Ercan] . . . We ask all our customers to cooperate.”

A spokesman for Turkish Airlines also confirmed that its passengers must check in affected equipment at Ercan airport if they are travelling to the UK as a transit passenger – despite a notice on its website announcing a new service which would allow travellers to hand over the devices at boarding gates in İstanbul’s Atatürk airport.

When asked to clarify the arrangements for people boarding the first leg of their UK-bound journey in North Cyprus, the spokesman said a further announcement would be made overnight, but that “common sense” should prevail.

Tourism and Environment Minister Fikri Ataoğlu criticised the decision by the British government, which does not apply to flights from the UK to Turkey, saying it would damage North Cyprus tourism.

“Security is already tight, but this is absurd,” he said.

British Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: “We understand the frustration that these measures may cause and are working with the aviation industry to minimise any impact.

“Our top priority will always be to maintain the safety of British nationals. These new measures apply to flights into the UK and we are not currently advising against flying to and from those countries.”

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