US might ban laptops on all flights into and out of the country

WASHINGTON — The United States might ban laptops from aircraft cabins on all flights into and out of the country as part of a ramped-up effort to protect against potential security threats, US Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said on Sunday (May 28).

In an interview on Fox News Sunday, Mr Kelly said the United States planned to “raise the bar” on airline security, including tightening screening of carry-on items.

“That’s the thing that they are obsessed with, the terrorists, the idea of knocking down an airplane in flight, particularly if it’s a US carrier, particularly if it’s full of US people.”

In March, the government imposed restrictions on large electronic devices in aircraft cabins on flights from 10 airports, including the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Turkey.

Mr Kelly said the move would be part of a broader airline security effort to combat what he called “a real sophisticated threat”. He said no decision had been made as to the timing of any ban.

“We are still following the intelligence,” he said, “and are in the process of defining this, but we’re going to raise the bar generally speaking for aviation much higher than it is now.”

Airlines are concerned that a broad ban on laptops may erode customer demand. But none wants an incident aboard one of its airplanes.

“Whatever comes out, we’ll have to comply with,” Mr Oscar Munoz, chief executive officer of United Airlines, told the company’s annual meeting last week.

Airlines were blindsided in January when President Donald Trump issued an executive order banning entry for 90 days to citizens from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, sending airlines scrambling to determine who could board and who could not. The order was later blocked in the courts.

In the case of laptops, the administration is keeping the industry in the loop. Delta Air Lines said in a statement it “continues to be in close contact with the US Department of Homeland Security”, while Mr Munoz applauded the administration for giving the company a “heads up”.

“We’ve had constant updates on the subject,” he said. “We know more than most. And again, if there’s a credible threat out there, we need to make sure we take the appropriate measures.”

MORE SCRUTINY OF CARRY-ONS

Among the enhanced security measures will likely be tighter screening of carry-on items to allow Transport Security Administration agents to discern problematic items in tightly stuffed bags.

Mr Kelly said that in order to avoid paying fees for checking bags, people were stuffing them to the point where it was difficult to see through the clutter.

“The more stuff is in there, the less the TSA professionals that are looking at what’s in those bags through the monitors can tell what’s in them.”

The TSA has begun testing certain new procedures at a limited number of airports, requiring people to remove additional items from carry-on bags for separate screenings.

Asked whether the government would expand such measures nationwide, Mr Kelly said: “We might, and likely will.” REUTERS

US and EU reject expanding laptop ban to flights from Europe

US and EU officials have decided against a ban on laptops and tablets in cabin baggage on flights from Europe.

But after a four-hour meeting in Brussels to discuss the threats to aviation security, officials said other measures were still being considered.

US officials had previously said they were looking into extending to Europe a ban on electronics on flights from eight mostly Muslim countries.

The measure was introduced over fears a bomb could be concealed in a device.

The meeting was requested by EU officials after recent reports suggested US authorities had new information regarding laptop parts being turned into explosives.

Details of a specific threat have not been made public.

How do the rules affect me?
What about the parents?
An EU source described the briefing as vitally important.

The authorities had been assured by their US colleagues that the meeting signalled the start of an era of better communication on security issues under President Donald Trump.

The US restrictions, introduced in March, apply to devices “larger than a smartphone” from the cabins of flights from Turkey, Morocco, Jordan, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

The UK issued a similar ban on flights from six countries.

David Crowder of BRE Global Limited demonstrates the dangers of faulty batteries
Steve Landells, a safety expert at the British Airline Pilots Association, said there was a greater risk of lithium battery fires if larger devices were kept in an aircraft’s hold.

“Given the risk of fire from these devices when they are damaged or they short circuit, an incident in the cabin would be spotted earlier and this would enable the crew to react quickly before any fire becomes uncontainable,” he said.

“If these devices are kept in the hold, the risk is that if a fire occurs the results can be catastrophic; indeed, there have been two crashes where lithium batteries have been cited in the accident reports.”

EU and US move to quell tensions over electronics ban

EU and US officials have moved to settle tensions over the proposed extension of a ban on electronic items in aircraft cabins to include European airports, after growing anxiety in Brussels over a lack of clarity from the US.

European commissioners for transport and home affairs met with Elaine Duke, the US deputy secretary of homeland security, on Wednesday, after Brussels wrote to the Trump administration to complain about a dearth of information from the US over the proposed ban.

A commission spokesperson said both sides exchanged information on “serious evolving threats to aviation security” during the meeting and also discussed “security enhancements” related to the laptop ban.

“The United States and the European Union reaffirmed their commitment to continue working closely together on aviation security generally, including meeting next week in Washington D.C. to further assess shared risks and solutions for protecting airline passengers, whilst ensuring the smooth functioning of global air travel,” the commission said.

Under the proposed ban, passengers would be forbidden from carrying electronic items larger than a mobile phone into a plane cabin as hand luggage. Larger items will have to be checked. The ban is already in force at ten Middle Eastern airports from which planes fly to the US.

The meeting comes amid deep unease in Brussels over a lack of information from the US regarding the proposed extension of the ban. That unease has grown in recent days after reports that Trump shared sensitive information with Russian ambassador Sergey Lavrov.

European diplomats have drawn a sharp contrast between Mr Trump’s exchanges with Mr Lavrov and the failure of the US to brief Brussels on the proposed extension of the laptop ban on transatlantic flights from some European airports. “Europeans are expecting cooperative exchanges with US on this matter and to avoid US unilateral measures,” a European diplomat said.

“It is somewhat surprising though that intel was shared on this issue with Russian minister Lavrov, before being shared with ministers of allied countries,” the diplomat added.

Expansion of ban on larger electronics on airlines likely: U.S.

WASHINGTON

U.S. Homeland Security chief John Kelly has not made a final decision on extending a ban on larger electronic devices on airplanes, but the department still believes an expansion is likely, a spokesman said on Tuesday.

Fears that a bomb could be concealed in electronic devices prompted the United States to announce in March it would restrict passengers from bringing devices larger than cellphones on flights originating from 10 airports, including in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey. Britain followed suit with restrictions on a slightly different set of routes.

DHS spokesman David Lapan declined to offer guidance on when a decision on an expansion would be made, but reiterated it was likely the restrictions would be expanded. He also said any expansion could affect international airports in Europe and elsewhere.

European Union and U.S. officials will meet on Wednesday to discuss airline security, including a possible extension of a ban on passengers carrying laptops in aircraft cabins, a European Commission spokesman said.

The meeting was arranged during a phone call between Kelly and EU ministers on Friday. DHS Deputy Secretary Elaine Duke will attend the meeting.

The United States has been considering increasing the number of airports affected by the ban to possibly include some European ones, prompting the EU to hold a meeting of aviation security officials last week.

In Australia, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said on Tuesday the country may ban passengers from bringing laptop computers into the cabin on some international flights.

“We are looking at it very closely, taking into account all the information and advice we are receiving internationally and working very closely with our partners,” Turnbull said, according to a transcript released by his office.

Chief among the Europeans’ concerns is the fire risk from placing hundreds of devices with lithium-ion batteries in luggage holds.

Reuters reported last week that the Trump administration would likely expand a ban on laptops on commercial aircraft to include some European countries but was reviewing how to ensure lithium batteries stored in holds do not explode in midair, citing officials briefed on the matter.

Any expansion of the ban could affect U.S. and European carriers such as United Airlines (UAL.N), Delta Air Lines Inc DAL.N> and American Airlines Group (AAL.O).

In 2016, 30 million people flew to the United States from Europe, according to U.S. Transportation Department data.

(Additional reporting by Julia Edwards Ainsley; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Delta posts sign banning devices from overseas flights

Whoops! Delta posts sign banning devices from overseas flights – CNET

May 12, 2017 12:56 PM PDT

Delta erroneously told passengers Friday that an electronics ban was coming into effect on May 12.

Photo by Delta
Delta mistakenly informed passengers Friday that most electronics were getting banned from international flights.

As spotted on FlyerTalk and by The Points Guy, a sign at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport told passengers that a ban on carrying on devices apart from phones would come into effect on May 12 (Friday), requiring passengers to check anything from laptops to Nintendo Switch consoles on flights entering the United States.

“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 will be required to be checked,” the sign read.

Delta quickly shot this down, telling CNET that the sign was posted in error and has since been removed. However, this gaffe comes as rumors of such a ban on flights leaving Europe loom.

Delta said that a ban does continue to be in effect on flights entering the US from some Middle East markets.

U.S., EU set meeting on airline security, electronic devices

By David Shepardson and Julia Fioretti | WASHINGTON/BRUSSELS

U.S. and European officials will discuss airline security issues at a meeting in Brussels next week, including possibly expanding the number of airports that ban passengers from carrying electronic devices bigger than cellphones aboard flights, a European Commission spokeswoman said on Friday.

U.S. Homeland Security Department Secretary John Kelly told European ministers by phone Friday the department does not plan to immediately unveil any new measures, the EU said.

U.S. Homeland Security spokesman David Lapan said no final decision had been made on whether to expand the restrictions, and he declined to immediately confirm Kelly’s trip to Brussels.

“The U.S. and the EU are on the same side when it comes to fighting terrorism and protecting our security,” Dimitris Avramopoulos, EU commissioner for migration, home affairs and citizenship, said in a statement.

“Our phone call today proved once again the strong cooperation we have on these matters. I look forward to welcoming Mr Kelly and his experts in Brussels next week to continue our positive talks.”

Fears that a bomb could be concealed in electronic devices prompted the United States to announce in March that it would restrict passengers from bringing laptops onto flights originating from 10 airports, including those in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey. Britain followed suit with restrictions on a slightly different set of routes.

Airlines and several countries affected by the electronics ban have pushed for more consultation with American and British regulators after the abrupt introduction of the restrictions took the industry by surprise.

U.S. and European carriers are concerned about the logistics of checking large numbers of devices. Some airline officials say they would need to hire more staff to impose additional curbs and are worried about how much advance notice they would have.

On Wednesday, Reuters reported that the Trump administration is likely to include some European countries in the in-cabin electronics ban.

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

European regulators have warned that placing hundreds of devices in the hold on long-haul flights could also compromise safety by increasing the risk of fire from poorly deactivated lithium-ion batteries.

The EU said in a document approved Thursday and reviewed by Reuters that it did not “have information that would require the adoption of additional security measures, such as the restrictions being considered by the U.S authorities.” The EU document added that placing laptops in luggage holds “presents an increased safety risk to the aircraft, due to the lithium batteries contained in such devices.”

Kelly briefed members of Congress on Thursday and held a meeting with high-level executives of Delta Air Lines (DAL.N), United Airlines (UAL.N), American Airlines Group Inc (AAL.O) and Airlines For America, a trade group. A congressional official said Homeland Security was likely to expand the ban soon but did not say when or to what airports.

The airlines declined to comment, but an airline official said government officials suggested an expansion of the ban was expected soon but it wasn’t certain when.

The trade group said in a statement it appreciated the meeting “to discuss the current state of aviation security.”

The group voted to work with government officials to “minimize the impact on the traveling public by utilizing the risk-based solutions that are the core of our foundation as the safest aviation system in the world.”

In 2016, 30 million people flew to the United States from Europe, according to U.S. Transportation Department data.

According to airports association ACI Europe, summer schedules for 2017 at airports in 28 European Union countries show there are 3,257 flights per week to the United States.

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.

The predicament is reminiscent of the aviation industry’s response to the 2014 downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17.

At the time, airlines called for greater sharing of information about potential threats to commercial aircraft from conflict zones, even as intelligence agencies expressed reluctance over the risk of revealing sources.

(Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington; Additional reporting by Julia C. Fioretti in Brussels, Victoria Bryan in Berlin and Tim Hepher in Paris; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Cynthia Osterman)

US to ban laptops on all inbound flights from Europe: report

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will reportedly ban laptops on all U.S.-bound flights from Europe amid increasing concern over terrorists trying to hide explosives in consumer electronics.

European security officials told the Daily Beast that the new protocols will be announced Thursday, just ahead of the busy summer travel season.

The DHS has been considering expanding the current ban on large electronics on certain flights from the Middle East and Africa, and officials have been reportedly meeting regularly with U.S. airlines to consider the impacts of such a move.

“No final decisions have been made on expanding the restriction on large electronic devices in aircraft cabins; however, it is under consideration,” a DHS spokesperson said in a statement. “DHS continues to evaluate the threat environment and will make changes when necessary to keep air travelers safe.”
The DHS initially imposed the electronics ban on inbound flights coming from 10 different airports in Jordan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt, Qatar, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates.

Under the policy, passengers are prohibited from carrying electronic devices larger than a cellphone — such as laptops, tablets, cameras and portable DVD players — onto cabins of select flights, but can still stow the items in checked luggage.

The Daily Beast reported that it’s unclear whether the European ban will include tablets, however.

Senior administration officials said the new security protocols come in response to intelligence that indicates terrorist groups are “aggressively pursuing innovative methods” to smuggle explosive devices onto commercial flights.

The U.S. government has long been concerned about terrorists hiding explosives in consumer electronics and trying to build bombs with little or no metal, but new intelligence may have spurred the recent airline action.

The electronics ban has worried travel advocates, who fear it will hurt global business and tourism.

A number of Gulf carriers impacted by the policy have come up with workarounds, such as offering loaner laptops on flights or allowing passengers to check large electronics at the gate just prior to boarding.