Airlines meet with Homeland Security on expanding laptop ban

Bruno Cirelli
Mag 13, 2017

Fears that a bomb could be concealed in electronic devices prompted the United States to announce in March that it would restrict passengers from bringing laptops onto flights originating from 10 airports, including those in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey.

An expansion of the restrictions to flights from Europe could have a substantially greater impact on air travel.

According to the report, there were 33 incidents of passenger-owned electronic devices in the cabin causing fire emergencies during flights in 2016, including three cases related to laptops and two linked to tablets.

Airline executives met with officials from the Department of Homeland Security to discuss the issue on Thursday, the Los Angeles Times reports. "When there are changes, we'll announce that".

The DHS official stressed no decision is anticipated tomorrow.

The issue stems from March, when the US imposed a slew of laptop restrictions on flights coming from as many as 10 airports.

"No final decisions have been made on expanding the restriction on large electronic devices in aircraft cabins; however, it is under consideration".

Homeland Security secretary John F. Kelly is expected to brief senators on security today, but there is no indication as to when a wider ban may commence.

Emirates, the Middle East's largest airline, this week cited the ban on electronics as one of the reasons for an 80 percent drop in profits past year.

The US has been stepping up vetting and aviation security measures in recent years - a trend that shows no sign of slowing down under the Trump administration.

Some media outlets, citing European security officials, reported Wednesday that the US ban would be expanded to all flights from Europe, and that an announcement would come Thursday.

An industry-backed group, the Airline Passenger Experience Association, said the USA government should consider alternatives. "Because they're doing business, but also because there's some sensitive data on their computers and they want to be able to have their computers close".

While the ban wouldn't directly affect South Africans here at home, business people travelling to the USA via Europe may find themselves twiddling their thumbs on a flight rather than using the time to get some work done.

The European Union is requesting urgent talks with the USA over the matter, NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports.

It may even increase the risk of corporate laptops being lost or stolen as they are handled by airport staff, not to mention increasing the risk of lithium battery-related fires in the hold.

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