iPhone iPad
Fake iPads formed a crucial part of the intelligence behind the US and UK electronics flight bans. iStock

US and UK plans to restrict passengers from bringing laptops, tablets and other electronic devices on board flights from Muslim-majority countries were partly influenced by a plot to bring down a plane by detonating explosives hidden inside a fake iPad. The assertion comes from a new report citing "security sources", which claim that the iPad bomb threat became part of "a combination of factors" that led to the controversial bans.

According to The Guardian, the intelligence used to justify the UK flight policy and its US equivalent included references to a terror attack involving a counterfeit copy of Apple's iOS tablet, with explosives hidden inside. While the time-frame, country of origin, and instigator of the reported plot were not disclosed by sources, the report does state that the fake looked "as good as the real thing."

The claim follows several US security analysts noting that there had been increased "chatter" within extremist channels mentioning computers and similar devices filled with explosives.

Although airlines have faced similar threats before, the notion that Islamist groups had found new ways to covertly bring bombs encased in electronics onto a plane cabin reportedly sparked the radical, somewhat controversial bans.

The electronics ban in the UK is set to put a stop to passengers bringing portable devices roughly larger than an average smartphone into a plane's cabin onto in-bound flights from Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia on selected airlines. The US ban extends to eight countries; Jordan, Kuwait, Egypt, Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and the United Arab Emirates.

Both White House and the UK government's separate interpretations of the ban kicked into action on 25 March at selected airports. Government officials in the UK previously stated that the extreme measures were paramount to ensure the "safety and security of the travelling public."

While the UK's policy change restricts electronic items over 16cm x 9.3cm x 1.5cm to hold luggage only, a Department for Transport spokesperson later confirmed that handheld games consoles, such as Nintendo Switch, will be exempt from the ruling. This, however, does not appear to be the case for US-bound flights from the specified countries.