Australia is requiring extra screening measures at boarding gates of flights to Australia from Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Doha airports, but is not banning passengers from carrying onboard their electronic devices.

Passengers on direct flights to Australia from the two United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Qatar airports are now subject to random explosive detection screening before they board. Checks may also include targeted screening of electronic devices, Australia’s federal minister for infrastructure and transport, Darren Chester, said.

Australia’s extra screening comes two weeks after the US and UK issued new aviation security measures that ban electronic devices larger than smartphones in carry-on bags on flights from lists of named countries and airports, most of them in the Middle East.

Chester said there was “no specific threat to Australia,” but the “precautionary changes” would maintain Australia’s strong security settings.

Australia’s measures affect Qantas; Etihad Airways, which codeshares with Virgin Australia; Emirates Airline, a Qantas partner; and Qatar Airways on flights from the UAE or Qatar.

Australia’s move adds to the inconsistencies among the three countries that have implemented new security measures. The US and UK are banning passengers from taking onboard any electronic devices such as laptops, e-readers and tablets on certain flights. The US measures apply to 10 airports, including Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Doha Hamad and Istanbul Ataturk. The UK measures apply to six countries that include Turkey, but not the UAE or Qatar. In direct contrast, Australia’s list includes only the UAE and Qatar. Because of the different target lists, the UK and Australian measures affect British and Australian airlines on specific routes as well as Arab, Turkish and North African carriers. The US measures do not directly affect any US carriers.

The US and UK measures have been questioned by some industry representatives, including IATA director general and CEO Alexandre de Juniac, who said the carry-on bans create severe commercial distortions and were not acceptable long-term solutions.

None of the three countries that have added new security measures have given specifics about new threats that prompted them. The US government said only that it was “concerned about terrorists’ ongoing interest in targeting commercial aviation, including transportation hubs” and that it selected the airports on its list “based on the current threat picture.”  No end-date for the measures was given, only that “the new procedures remain in place until the threat changes.”

Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways have each responded by trying to mitigate the hassle to their customers, especially premium passengers. They are offering complimentary services to business travelers on affected flights that include a personal at-gate check-in service for laptops and tablets (Emirates), the loaning of iPads onboard (Etihad), and the loaning of laptops onboard (Qatar Airways).

Karen Walker Karen.walker@penton.com