UPDATE 10:30 am PT May 30: Politico Europe is reporting that the U.S. has told its EU counterparts that there will be no laptop ban for now. The post states that “this matter is closed for now. However, the decision not to impose the ban could change based on future intelligence.” We will monitor this for confirmation, but here’s the latest: http://www.politico.eu/article/us-tells-eu-no-laptop-ban-2/
UPDATE #2 Noon PT May 30: Regarding the Politico report above: A DHS spokesperson says that story is “absolutely wrong,” and that DHS Secretary John Kelly “made it clear that an expansion (of the ban) is still on the table.” Here’s the latest, as reported by USA Today.
Worried about the Department of Homeland Security’s much-discussed plans to expand its ban on in-cabin laptops and tablets to inbound flights from Europe? Well, now you’ve got a whole lot more to worry about.
Appearing on Fox News this past weekend, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said he is now thinking about possibly extending the ban to all international flights in and out of the U.S.
Meanwhile, there could be some hope on the technological horizon that improved screening devices might eventually make such a ban unnecessary.
Kelly said in an interview that he “might” make the ban a global one, claiming that terrorist groups working on laptop computer bombs pose a “real threat” to commercial aviation. Kelly said terror groups “are obsessed with…the idea of knocking down an airplane in flight, particularly if it’s a U.S. carrier.”
Currently, the U.S. ban on in-cabin laptops and tablets only applies to inbound non-stop flights from 10 airports in the Middle East and North Africa. DHS was said to be on the verge of extending the ban to inbound flights from Europe earlier this month, but that plan was put on hold – at least temporarily – as the U.S. carries on discussions with European security officials about the wisdom and necessity of such an action.
When the discussion was limited to a ban on in-cabin electronic devices aboard flights from Europe, the aviation and business travel industries were predicting “havoc” for transatlantic travel, with business travelers staying home, and airlines losing money and trimming routes. That chorus of complaints from both sides of the Atlantic about the impact of a ban seemed to have worked- and kept it at bay– until Kelly’s remarks on Sunday.
An expansion of the ban to all international flights would increase those concerns by many orders of magnitude and would lead to wholesale changes in the way people travel.
A passenger survey conducted in 2016 found that 38 percent of international travelers worldwide carry a laptop onboard, and 42 percent of those with a laptop use it during the flight. For tablets, the comparable numbers were 43 percent who carry one on, and 70 percent of those use one in-flight.
Meanwhile, manufacturers of airport security screening devices say technology has improved so much in recent years that a new generation of scanning machines could easily detect explosive materials in carry-on laptops and liquids, according to Bloomberg News.
But that might not bring an easy solution to DHS’s immediate concerns. For one thing, it would take a long time to manufacture and deploy the next-generation scanners to airports in the U.S. and abroad. For another, Congress would have to approve funding for the purchase and installation of such equipment, which could cost an estimated $1 billion.
Do you think a laptop ban is imminent? How will it change the way you travel? Please leave your comments below.