Travelers concerned about the U.S. banning in-cabin laptops and tablets on flights from Europe are breathing a sigh of relief – although it may be only temporary.
Just last week, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was said to be on the verge of expanding its laptop ban – currently in effect for flights from 10 Middle Eastern and North African airports – to include inbound flights from Europe as well. But after a crucial meeting in Brussels this week between U.S. and European security and aviation officials, those plans have apparently been put on hold for now.
The Associated Press quoted one official as saying after the meeting that the expanded laptop ban is ”off the table” for now.
In an official statement following the meeting, DHS and the European Commission said only that they had “reaffirmed their commitment to continue working closely together on aviation security generally,” and that they have scheduled another meeting next week in Washington D.C. “to further assess shared risks and solutions for protecting airline passengers, whilst ensuring the smooth functioning of global air travel.”
The U.S. is concerned that terrorist organizations like ISIS are refining methods of planting explosives inside electronic devices in such a way that they can’t be detected by existing airport security systems.
At their Brussels meeting, the two sides “exchanged information on the serious evolving threats to aviation security and approaches to confronting such threats,” the official statement said. “Participants provided insight into existing aviation security standards and detection capabilities as well as recent security enhancements on both sides of the Atlantic related to large electronic devices placed in checked baggage.”
The statement said nothing about the proposed expansion of the laptop ban.
The Europeans were known to be concerned about threats to aviation safety if large numbers of electronic devices with lithium batteries are stowed in the hold of an aircraft, since those batteries have been known to ignite.
The threat of an expanded laptop ban led to warnings from the airline and travel industries that transatlantic travel could suffer significant damage from such an order. The initial damage would be in the form of chaos at airports as travelers and airlines adapted to the ban, and longer term in a falloff of bookings, especially among higher-paying business travelers.