EU, US discuss possible expansion of airline laptop ban

The United States is looking to impose laptop restrictions on flight from EU countries following the announcement of such restrictions on 10 airports in March.
The United States is looking to impose laptop restrictions on flight from EU countries following the announcement of such restrictions on 10 airports in March.PHOTO: AFP/GETTY IMAGES

WASHINGTON (REUTERS, AFP) - US Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly spoke with European officials on Friday (May 12) to discuss threats to aviation and a possible expansion of a ban on in-cabin electronics larger than cellphones, US and European officials said.

DHS spokesman David Lapan said no announcement was planned for Friday on whether the US government will expand the ban and that no final decision had been made on expanding the restrictions.

In March, the United States announced laptop restrictions on flights originating from 10 airports including in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey because of fears that a concealed bomb could be installed in electronic devices taken on aircraft.

Britain quickly followed suit with restrictions on a slightly different set of routes.

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Reuters reported on Wednesday the Trump administration is likely to include some European countries in the in-cabin ban.

Kelly briefed members of Congress Thursday and held a meeting with high level executives at Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and American Airlines Group Inc.

The airlines declined to comment.

A European Union spokeswoman earlier confirmed that a call with EU commissioners and transport ministers had been scheduled with Kelly.

Commission spokeswoman Anna-Kaisa Itkonen told a news briefing in Brussels: “Our interest is to stay informed so that we have a possibility to share... information with our member states."

One issue airlines are concerned about is how much advance notice they would have to impose additional restrictions, which some airline officials say would require hiring more staff.

A broader ban would significantly affect US and European carriers, which are concerned about the challenges of checking large numbers of devices. In 2016, 30 million people flew to the United States from Europe, according to US Transportation Department data. There are more than 300 daily flights from Europe to the United States.

Some US and European airlines have been planning for a wider ban, industry officials have told Reuters.

A congressional official said it appeared that Homeland Security was likely to expand the ban soon, but did not say when or to what airports.

Kelly said last month the ban was likely to expand, given the sophisticated threats in aviation and intelligence findings that would-be attackers were trying to hide explosives in electronic devices.