Laptop Ban May Boost Air India's Traffic, Finance Head Says

  • Passengers wouldn’t risk theft of laptops by checking them in
  • Air India to start new Washington flight as early as July

Air India Ltd. , the country’s national carrier, may see a jump in passengers after the U.S. barred people travelling by some Middle Eastern airlines from carrying large electronic devices on flights bound for the country, its finance head said.

Etihad Airways PJSC, Qatar Airways Ltd. and Emirates Airline Ltd, which carry about 19 percent of travelers flying to and from India, may be the worst hit by the move to ban use of iPads and laptops on aircraft originating from cities including Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha, Cairo and Istanbul. The move may impact about 50 flights a day.

Air India, which currently flies to New York, Newark, Chicago and San Francisco in the U.S., will boost its international operations including a new direct flight to Washington as early as July, Vinod Hejmadi said in a statement. He didn’t say if the Washington flight was a response to the U.S. move.

The U.S. ban coming just weeks after president Donald Trump sought to stop most citizens of several predominantly Muslim Middle Eastern and African countries from entering the U.S. That move is being challenged in the court. The latest rules also coincide with attempts by American carriers to have the government stem U.S. access for Gulf rivals they say have benefited from illegal state aid.

"For many passengers the laptop and iPads serve as their mini office and generally have a lot of official data stored in them," Hejmadi said. Passengers won’t risk losing their electronic equipment after checking them in and exposing them to potential theft or mishandling, he said.

The U.S. move may also help European Airlines as travelers from U.S. or Europe to Asia may prefer connecting through an European hub or a direct flight that enable them to use laptops on-board, potentially aiding the struggling Asia businesses of Deutsche Lufthansa AG, IAG SA and Air France-KLM, George Ferguson, a senior industry analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence wrote in a report.