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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 20 November 2018

Parent of autistic child criticises British Airways over tablet policy

Passenger says seven-year-old son should have been allowed to take device on board

A British Airways pilot said an object had come up alongside the aircraft. British Airways
A British Airways pilot said an object had come up alongside the aircraft. British Airways

A parent flying from Jordan to the UK criticised British Airways after the airline refused to allow his autistic child to travel with an iPad.

Fayez Abu Awad questioned why the company had not lifted a ban on carrying laptops and other electronic items into the cabin, despite other airlines doing so.

Last year, the UK and US governments restricted passengers from carrying tablets or laptops while flying direct to Britain and America from certain Middle Eastern countries over fears the devices could contain explosives.

The British authorities said the “vast majority of carriers operating” out of cities such as the Jordanian capital Amman were no longer subject to the restrictions, but BA continued with the policy.

“Surely there is a way to safeguard the sanity of other passengers by allowing a seven-year-old to bring his distraction tablet with him?!” Mr Abu Awad wrote on Twitter.

“Do you know what travelling for 24 hours with a disgruntled, autistic child is like? Do you want your passengers to experience that?

“Why have you maintained the ban on flights from Amman despite the government lifting it.”

The ban in March last year affected 10 airports and nine airlines, including Emirates, Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airlines and Royal Jordanian.

Four months later the restriction was lifted after US officials visited the region to make sure new security measures had been implemented.

These included enhanced passenger screening, bolstered security protocols around aircraft and waiting areas plus the use of sniffer dogs.

Asked to comment on their policy, BA said passengers “are not able to carry laptops, tablets and larger mobile phones in (their) hand baggage” on direct flights from Jordan to the UK.

“The safety and security of our customers and crew will always be our top priority and we continue to work very closely with governments and airports around the world,” the airline added.

In a statement, the UK government said: “Some airlines have decided to maintain the ban for operational reasons.

“This does not reflect the security standards at these airports, but is an operational decision by individual carriers.”

There is no typical attention span for an autistic child – some have no problems at all while others are very impaired, Professor Declan Murphy, an autism expert at Kings College London, told The National.

“For those that are impaired, anything that could make the situation easier to help that child, whether an iPad or something else, is useful,” he said. “The thing that works best for the child is the best course."