The Department of Homeland Security could soon expand its so-called “laptop ban” to flights from additional airports.
The controversial order imposed by the U.S. last month prohibits passengers on non-stop flights to the U.S. from 10 airports in eight Middle Eastern and African nations from carrying anything larger than a smartphone into the cabin; laptops and tablets must go into checked luggage.
According to CNN, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly told a Senate panel this week: “We may take measures in the not-too-distant future to expand the number of airports” covered by the ban. Kelly did not say where those airports might be.
Kelly said the laptop ban currently in place is based on “a real threat.” Some recent reports indicated that terrorist groups are working on ways to hide explosives in electronic devices. Kelly told the Senate committee that there are “dozens of (terrorist) cells…talking about aviation,” and the laptop ban is an effort to keep one step ahead of them.
CNN said it also learned that some flights arriving from airports covered by the laptop ban are being targeted by the TSA for special inspections after they land in the U.S., using bomb-sniffing dogs and other techniques.
Some Middle Eastern carriers have devised new strategies to adapt to the ban, like offering premium passengers on their U.S. flights loaner laptops and tablets, free in-flight Internet, gate-checking of electronic devices and so on. Emirates joined that group this week, announcing that it would provide business and first class passengers on its U.S. flights from Dubai with Microsoft Surface tablets equipped with Microsoft Office 2016.