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

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)

European Air Regulator Raises Safety Concerns Over Electronics Ban

Aviation agency says it would prefer devices restricted by U.S. and Britain to be carried in planes’ cabins

By ROBERT WALL

LONDON—Europe’s aviation safety regulator Wednesday effectively issued a warning about the U.S. and British decision to ban electronic devices such as laptops from a plane’s cabin on some flights.

The U.S. and U.K. last month barred passengers on inbound flightsfrom certain Middle Eastern and North African airports from carrying on devices such as tablets, laptops and other larger electronics. Passengers are being instructed to instead leave the devices behind or place them in their checked bags. Officials in Washington and London said they acted to mitigate global threats against aviation from terrorism.

Safety regulators have long worried about the risk to flights from lithium batteries catching fire while on board. Those batteries are generally used in the devices the two countries have restricted. Safety regulators had been urging devices with lithium batteries to be carried in the cabin to allow airline staff to deal with problems, such as overheating or fire, should they arise.

The U.S. targeted flights from 10 airports. The U.K. restrictions apply to flights from six countries.

The European Aviation Safety Agency issued a special safety information bulletin, a notice to airlines about its concerns, reminding carriers that such devices “should preferably be carried in the passenger cabin, on the person or in the carry-on baggage.”

Airlines placing more electronic gadgets in checked luggage or a plane’s cargo hold should take precautions “to mitigate the associated risks, such as fire in the cargo hold,” the Cologne, Germany-based regulator said.

A spokesman for Britain’s Department for Transport said it would stick to its rules. Spare lithium batteries already can’t be carried on board and, the spokesman said, the government didn’t see a risk from batteries contained within devices even if they are transported in checked bags.

British Airways , one of Europe’s biggest airlines affected by the British ban, referred questions to the government.

The EASA said airlines should ensure the devices barred from the cabin aren’t damaged in flight. Damage to lithium batteries is seen as potential cause of fire. The EASA said the devices placed in checked bags should be contained in proper packaging, rigid bags or other protection to minimize the risk of damage. It also said airlines should ensure the devices are fully switched off before being stored and protected against accidental activation.

Electronics ban leads to further screening

(CNN)The Department of Homeland Security is targeting and isolating certain aircraft for additional screening upon landing in the United States as part of the larger electronics ban the agency announced late last month.

The additional security procedure is happening behind the scenes and was not publicly disclosed by DHS when it announced a ban on electronic devices in the cabin of certain flights.

A source with knowledge of the screening procedures tells CNN that TSA is targeting flights arriving from the same Middle Eastern and North African countries covered in the electronics ban, and screening them with bombs sniffing dogs and equipment.

In some cases, it occurs before the plane even pulls up to the gate. The focus of the additional measure is the checked luggage in the cargo hold of the plane.

Before the new security posture was in place, passengers could retrieve their luggage immediately after deplaning. If they were at their final destination, they would leave the airport with luggage in hand. If they were on a connecting flight they would go through customs and their luggage would be re-screened before getting on their connecting flight. With the new procedures in place, all luggage is being screened before the passenger is reunited with their luggage.

“How and where those procedures are conducted varies according to the airport’s capabilities,” DHS spokesman David Lapan told CNN.

First on CNN: New terrorist laptop bombs may evade airport security, intel sources say

The enhanced screening is happening at 14 US airports. The Department of Homeland Security confirms the domestic US airports affected include: Atlanta (ATL), Boston (BOS), Chicago O’Hare (ORD), Dallas-Ft. Worth (DFW), Ft. Lauderdale (FLL), Houston Intercontinental (IAH), Los Angeles (LAX), Miami (MIA), Orlando (MCO), New York Kennedy (JFK), Philadelphia (PHL), San Francisco (SFO), Seattle-Tacoma (SEA) and Washington Dulles (IAD).

The flights being targeted for additional screening are any flights that originate from the 10 airports located in the 8 Muslim-majority countries impacted by the US electronics ban — Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

“These restrictions are not a reflection of confidence — or lack of confidence — in the airlines and airports involved, but a reaction to the threat environment and our assessment of risks,” Lapan said.

Lapan told reporters Tuesday it is too soon to tell if any of the airports currently on the list would be able to get off the list by improving their security posture. Lapan said the policy will be reviewed constantly because it is based on the threat environment.

“So, as we continue to evaluate the threat environment around air travel we may make other decisions to expand or to pull things back.” Lapan said. “But there is nothing we can say to a particular airport, ‘Here are the things you need to do to get off the list.’ We’re not there.”

Electronics ban at foreign airports could expand

The source with knowledge of TSA procedures told CNN that TSA doesn’t want the bags leaving the cargo hold without a second look.

“TSA is not on the ground to screen bags at those (Middle Eastern and North African) airports,” the source pointed out. “If a passenger is getting on a connecting flight in the domestic system or coming into an airport with luggage, TSA wants assurance those bags are safe.”

Lapan told reporters the electronics ban on certain electronic devices on board direct flights to the US from 10 specific African and Middle Eastern airports – could “possibly” expand. The expansion could include more airports or devices. However, he cautioned, no such measures are imminent.

CNN’s Jon Ostrower and Mary Kay Mallonee contributed to this report.

Etihad Airways says bookings to the US are healthy despite the electronics ban

DUBAI (Reuters) – Etihad Airways’ bookings to the United States are healthy despite last month’s introduction of a ban on most electronics from the cabins of passenger flights to the United States, the Abu Dhabi carrier said on Monday.

On March 25, the U.S. banned electronic devices larger than a mobile phone from passenger cabins on direct flights to the U.S. from 10 airports in the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey, including the United Arab Emirates.

“Bookings to U.S. destinations remain healthy and customer feedback to the initiatives taken by Etihad Airways to provide for their business and entertainment needs has been very positive,” an Etihad spokesman said.

Industry experts warned the ban – prompted by reports that militant groups want to smuggle explosive devices in electronic gadgets – could be damaging to fast-growing Gulf carriers by weakening demand among corporate flyers who use their travel time to complete work on laptops and other devices.

Etihad said last week it would lend approved tablets and offer unlimited wifi to business and first-class passengers traveling on U.S.-bound flights.

In March, fellow Gulf carrier Emirates said booking rates on U.S. flights fell 35 per cent after President Donald Trump’s first travel ban which like the electronics ban only applied to Muslim-majority countries.

Electronics ban at foreign airports could expand

Washington (CNN)The ban on electronic devices on board some direct flights to the United States could expand to include more airports and devices, the Department of Homeland Security said Tuesday.

The existing ban — which governs certain devices from 10 specific African and Middle Eastern airports in eight countries — requires passengers on those flights to place electronic devices larger than cellphones in their checked luggage.

“Could we see an expansion? Possibly, we have not ruled out that there could be an expansion in the future,” DHS spokesman David Lapan told reporters. He added that any expansion to the ban — which took effect two weeks ago — is not imminent.
The Department of Homeland Security is also targeting and isolating certain aircraft for additional screening upon landing in the United States, according to a source with knowledge of the screening procedures.
US authorities have said the electronics ban is focused on the eight countries in part because of intelligence indicating a greater threat there. Intelligence and law enforcement assessments done in recent months also indicate that, though the broader vulnerabilities exist, the US has more confidence in detection machines and security screeners at airports in the US and Europe. Advanced technology and training helps mitigate the risk.

Lapan said it was too soon to tell if any of the airports currently on the list would be removed and that the policy would be reviewed based on emerging threats. He added, though, that “nothing is foolproof.”

“It is always our goal to prevent somebody from seeking to get an explosive device on an airplane and so we put things into place to try to mitigate that to the greatest extent possible,” he said. “But, short of having people stop flying completely — that’s the only way you can guarantee that no one will ever get blown up in an airplane.”

The US and UK airline electronics ban was prompted in part by a plot involving a fake iPad

Earlier this week, United States and United Kingdom officials announced new restrictions for airline passengers from eight Middle Eastern countries, forbidding passengers to carry electronics larger than a smartphone into an airplane cabin. According to a security source, the ban was prompted in part by a plot involving explosives hidden in a fake iPad.

The Guardian reports that the bans were “were not the result of a single specific incident but a combination of factors,” and that one of those factors was a plot to use a fake iPad to bring explosives onboard a plane. Further details, such as when the bombing would be carried out, the group behind it, or the nation from which the plan originated, were not divulged.

DETAILS OF THIS PARTICULAR PLOT REMAIN UNDER WRAPS
This delivery method is not unprecedented. In February 2016, a Somali plane was able to land after a passenger detonated a bomb, possibly hidden in a laptop, shortly after takeoff. The Guardian notes that a bomb placed in a passenger cabin can have more of an impact than one placed in the cargo hold, because the would-be bomber could position the explosive against a door or window.

The ban implemented by the US Department of Homeland Security includes laptops, tablets, e-readers, cameras, portable DVD players, and handheld gaming devices, and will require passengers to check those items with their baggage. At the time, DHS explained its rationale after “evaluated intelligence indicates that terrorist groups continue to target commercial aviation, to include smuggling explosive devices in various consumer items.” The US ban affects inbound, direct flights from Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Qatar, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates, while the UK ban affects flights from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and Turkey.

By the Verge

Turkish Airlines implements electronic device measure

Turkish Airlines Electronics Ban
Turkish Airlines Electronics Ban

Turkish Airlines Saturday have begun to implement regulations forbidding passengers from carrying electronic devices larger than cell phones aboard the plane, as announced on the airline’s website on Friday.
According to an Anadolu Agency reporter present at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport in Istanbul, Turkish Airlines personnel have taken passengers’ electronic devices such as tablets and laptops at the boarding gate and stored them in special containers .
Passengers were asked to leave tablets and laptops to be stored in the baggage hold.
“The electronic devices will be received by an airline officer during the last check-in before boarding the aircraft and will be placed in a special shatterproof luggage after being wrapped in foam covers,” Turkish Airlines CEO Bilal Eksi told Anadolu Agency on Friday.
“We guarantee that passengers’ devices will not be damaged or lost,” Eksi added.
On March 21, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said the restrictions would apply to flights from 10 foreign airports in eight Muslim-majority countries, including Istanbul’s Ataturk International Airport.
The U.K. later issued a similar ban on all flights from airports in Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Tunisia.

This Airline Is Letting Passengers Use Banned Electronics Until the Last Second

Emirates Airlines will allow passengers to carry their laptops and tablets through security and to their gates instead of checking them with their luggage in wake of the Trump administration’s electronics ban.
As a means to lighten the effect of the ban, the Dubai-based airline company will offer a packaging service at the gates of U.S.-bound flights for these electronics. The service makes it so travelers can use their devices up until they board their flights.
“Our aim is to ensure compliance with the new rules, while minimizing disruption to passenger flow and impact on customer experience,” Emirates President Tim Clark said in a statement released Thursday.
He added that the majority of Emirates’ passengers — 90% — use their smartphones to connect to onboard WiFi connect. Only 6% connect to the WiFi with their laptops, and 4% do so with their tablets.
The U.S. issued a security directive involving 10 Middle Eastern airports earlier this week — banning all personal electronics larger than a cell phone on U.S.-bound flights. The ban will go into effect March 25.
There was no specific threat that spurred than ban, though the Department of Homeland Security mentioned an incident in which a man detonated an explosive device in a laptop on a Somali passenger jet in February 2016. Such a device could not be used in cell phones, experts reached by TIME have said.
The electronics ban is not permanent, but also does not have a set end date. Clark urged passengers to think on the bright side about the electronics policy. “Perhaps the silver lining to this is that they can now justifiably give themselves a break from their devices,” Clark said.