Proposed laptop-ban expansion could have big impact for travelers

Posted May 15, 2017

The current USA ban, which applies to laptops, tablets and larger smartphones, is being enforced on US-bound flights from 10 airports in the Middle East and North Africa including Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates. Cellphones would still be allowed in cabins but virtually every other electronic device would not be permitted and would need to be stowed in checked bags.

The initial ban, now in place at 10 airports in eight countries, was put in place after USA intelligence feared terrorists could develop bombs hidden in portable electronic devices.

The Department of Homeland Security held a conference call with "key European partners" on Friday, over reports that the U.S.is considering expanding the laptop ban to all 60 European airports with direct-U.S. flights.

While no decision has yet been taken, any restrictions could hit major European airlines such as Lufthansa, British Airways, Air France-KLM and industry sources have said airlines and airports have already been working on possible contingency measures.

"Our interest is to stay informed so that we have a possibility to share. information with our member states", Itkonen said, adding that two European Union commissioners would also take part.

The Donald Trump administration is planning to extend the ban on laptop computers on commercial aircraft to some European countries just ahead of the peak summer season, sending airlines and travel-industry groups into a tizzy. No decision is expected to be made during the meeting.

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Chief among the concerns are whether any new threat prompted the proposal, said European Commission transport spokeswoman Anna-Kaisa Itkonen, who confirmed the talks and said the EU had no new information about a specific security concern.

One European official acknowledged that the expanded ban could affect flights to the United States from Britain.

In one case, the Dubai-based Emirates airline cut back on flights to the USA last month, saying the Trump administration's security measures have weakened demand for U.S.travel.

Such a move, which some airline officials expect will happen, would create logistical chaos on the world's busiest corridor of air travel - as many as 65 million people fly on trans-Atlantic routes a year. Approved medical devices are exempt, but must go through additional screening.

The Trump administration has said the original ban was necessary because intelligence suggests terrorists are now able to hide explosives in laptops and other devices.

The current ban by the US imposes the restrictions on flights from Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Turkey and Morocco.