Laptop being used on an aeroplane

Laptop ban on all international flights considered by Trump administration

Image credit: Dreamstime

The US government is considering a ban on large electronic devices for all incoming and outgoing flights to protect against national security threats, according to US Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly.

In March, the US government introduced restrictions on large electronic devices in aeroplane cabins on flights from 10 airports in eight majority Muslim countries: Turkey, Morocco, Jordan, Egypt, the UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Recently, the UK Department of Transport announced that similar restrictions on electronic devices would apply to major airlines flying from eight countries in the Middle East. All electronic devices larger than a smartphone must now be checked in.

The policies were brought in over fears that a bomb could be concealed within a laptop, tablet or similar device.

“That’s the thing that they’re obsessed with, the terrorists, the idea of knocking down an airplane in flight, particularly if it’s a US carrier, particularly if it’s full of US people,” Secretary Kelly said during an interview on Fox News Sunday.

When asked whether he may introduce a ban on laptops on all international flights, Secretary Kelly replied: “I might”. He said that no decision had been made about when the ban would be introduced and that the government was “still following the intelligence”.

The US government is working alongside the aviation industry on these policies; Delta Air Lines announced in a statement that it “continues to be in close contact with the US Department of Homeland Security”.

The bans have been criticised by the British Airline Pilots’ Association, which claims that storing electronic devices in the hold may risk them catching fire unnoticed and therefore constitute a greater security risk than storing them in the cabin. The Business Travel Coalition has also poured scorn on the restrictions, saying that the restrictions could cause an “economic tsunami”.

Secretary Kelly said that the ban would be just one component of a wider airline security effort to combat national security threats. The US would “raise the bar […] for aviation much higher than it is now”, he said, including tightening security checks of carry-on luggage.

This would allow Transport Security Administration (TSA) agents to identify potentially dangerous items hidden in tightly-packed bags.

According to Secretary Kelly, in order to avoid paying bag-checking fees, passengers were stuffing their bags to the extent that they could not be easily searched. The TSA has begun testing new procedures at some airports, such as requiring passengers to remove additional items from carry-on luggage for separate screenings. The government “might, and likely will” expand these procedures across the country, the Homeland Security head said.

In a meeting between high-level officials earlier this month, US and EU officials appeared to agree not to extend the laptop ban to flights between Europe and America. The US Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security, Elaine Duke, promised to keep the EU informed if alternative measures were introduced.

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