U.S. to consider expanding airline laptop ban

Ivan Schwartz
May 20, 2017

USA authorities are considering banning carry-on computers on European flights to the United States, widening the security measure introduced for flights from eight countries in March, an official said May 9, 2017.

Such a ban is already in place for such devices on flights departing to the United States out of eight countries in the Middle East and Africa. That could include routinely testing laptops for chemical residues associated with bombs, requiring owners to turn on their devices, and letting frequent travelers keep their electronics with them.

The DHS, however, is said to be mulling over expanding that laptop ban to include still unnamed European countries.

The letter is dated Tuesday and is addressed to John Kelly, the DHS secretary, and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. No official decision on the matter has been made.

While DHS spokesman David Lapan told the news agency that no official announcement would come Thursday, he did confirm DHS Secretary John Kelly met with USA senators from relevant oversight committees to brief them on classified issues including "threats to aviation".

A TSA spokesman said Thursday, "Nothing is going to be announced this week".

A report by Reuters said that the U.S. government is reviewing "how to ensure lithium batteries stored in luggage holds do not explode in midair".

US officials have said the decision in March to bar laptops and tablets from the cabins of some worldwide flights wasn't based on any specific threat but on longstanding concerns about extremists targeting jetliners. European airport security measures are closely aligned with American measures, and US aviation security has had its own failures. It could mean additional secondary screening of USA bound passengers which would likely result in delays. Top EU and U.S. officials will hold talks today over a possible USA ban on carry-on computers on European flights to the United States, an EU spokeswoman said. "We are acting on specific intelligence". The UK imposed a similar ban shortly after, although its list of countries notably excluded the large hubs in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha. A new ban would affect all US airlines, including American Airlines, which has a hub and a trans-Atlantic gateway at Philadelphia International Airport.

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This surely won't make the United States more inviting.

Homeland Security said in a statement Wednesday that the restriction was under consideration.

Two airline officials who were briefed on the discussions said Homeland Security gave no timetable for an announcement, but they were resigned to its inevitability. Cell phones and medical devices are exempt from the ban. Lufthansa shares declined 2%, while British Airways parent IAG shed 1.7%.

"The North Atlantic market is highly competitive, but also highly profitable because of the links between the key financial centers of Europe and NY", he said.

The officials had asked that the US and Europe continue to cooperate on a "joint response to shared threats". You will have to check them in your cases. DHS said the move was necessary due to terrorist threats aimed at commercial aviation.

But that argument hasn't won over the industry.

Commenting on these tests, the Federation of Airline Pilots' Associations, IFALPA, representing airline pilots worldwide, said, "In fact, the fire proceeded is if the halon were not present".

The current ban, which affects about 50 flights per day from 10 cities, does not prevent passengers from checking laptops and other electronic devices into luggage holds. Cellphones would still be allowed in cabins but virtually every other electronic device would not be permitted and would need to be stowed in checked bags. It said that carrying a large number of lithium batteries in the cargo compartment increases the risk of an accidental fire.

Other reports by GizPress

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