US prepares to ban laptops on flights from Europe

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13 May, 2017

U.S. Homeland Security officials met with major U.S. airlines and a trade group on Thursday to discuss the impact of possibly expanding a ban on large electronic gadgets on planes to flights from some European airports, three sources briefed on the meeting said. "It is unclear if the European ban will also apply to tablets".

"We are in contact with our partners and the authorities, and we're preparing for the possibility", Air France spokeswoman Ulli Gendrot said by phone. "We have a meeting in Washington with airlines today on this topic, so we should know more after that".

But Homeland Security officials met Thursday with high-ranking executives of the three leading US airlines - American, Delta and United - and the industry's leading USA trade group, Airlines for America, to discuss expanding the laptop policy to flights arriving from Europe.

The ban, already in place at 10 airports in the Middle East and Africa, prohibits electronics larger than a cellphone in the passenger cabin.

DHS spokesman Dave Lapan said Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly "hasn't made a decision but we continue to evaluate the threat environment and have engaged in discussions with airline representatives and other stakeholders about the threat".

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Laptops could be banned on flights from Europe in the near future.

A congresional official said it appeared that Homeland Securitiy was likely to expand the ban soon, but did not say when or to what airports. "The key thing is to make sure the message is communicated in a coherent way". Britain has imposed a laptops ban of its own affecting direct flights from six states. Agency spokeswoman Jenny Burke said there would be no announcement on Thursday. The prospect was first raised in 2014, and gained traction in recent months among US officials who grew concerned that terrorists had renewed their efforts to create such devices.

"The Commission is keen to work closely with all global partners - including the USA authorities - on identifying developing threats in aviation and the best ways to address them together", Itkonen said. The wait at baggage claim for the collection of checked laptops is also a "big negative", while handing over devices or using loaners may not be an option for some firms keen to safeguard sensitive information.

The controversial security measures have been criticized by Middle Eastern airlines and other aviation experts, who have questioned the rationale for the policy, complained about the impact on their business, and warned of safety risks associated with carrying large numbers of lithium batteries in the cargo hold of aircraft. DHS said the move was necessary due to terrorist threats aimed at commercial aviation.


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