It looks like the Department of Homeland Security’s widely-reported plans to expand its in-flight laptop ban to Europe has been put off at least for a few days.
Earlier reports this week suggested that the ban’s announcement was expected by Thursday or Friday, and would apply to U.S.-bound flights from the continent and perhaps the U.K., prohibiting flyers from carrying anything larger than a smartphone into the cabin. (Yes, tablets would be forbidden, too.) That kind of ban is already in place for non-stop flights to the U.S. from 10 airports in the Middle East and North Africa.
There was even a notice at a Delta gate at Cincinnati on Friday that the ban would take effect May 12 (posted by SFO 1K on FlyerTalk), but that was premature. A DHS spokesperson referred all inquiries about the sign to Delta. Late Friday, Vocativ.com reported that a Delta spokesperson said the notice was posted by error and should be regarded as erroneous. (yeah, but…)
The sign, which has since been removed, said: Attention International Passengers. Effective May 12 passengers will only be permitted to carry a cell phone onboard flights returning to the United States. All other personal electronic devices with be required to be checked.
According to reports Friday from Reuters and Politico.com, DHS agreed to hold off on any order pending a meeting with European officials in Brussels next Wednesday (May 17).
EU officials are said to be concerned not only about the logistical problems that would be created by a sudden imposition of a laptop ban, but also about potential threats to safety if thousands of travelers start to put electronic devices into their checked luggage for stowage in the hold of the aircraft. The lithium-ion batteries in such devices are known to pose a small risk of igniting.
In fact, the European Aviation Safety Agency says on its website: “You should carry your portable electronic devices (PEDs, such as cameras, laptops and phones) in your hand baggage (carry-on), and not in your checked baggage,” because of the fire risk.
U.S. airline officials have been in talks with DHS in recent days about the looming announcement of a laptop ban for European flights, presumably to give them time to prepare their operations for such a possibility.
So we can all breath a sigh of relief … for now.
How will the laptop ban affect the way you travel? How or will you adapt? Please leave your questions and comments below.