US, EU in urgent discussions on pitch to expand laptop ban

Image from Bill Damon

Image from Bill Damon

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 onto aircraft.

The ban was first implemented in March, and is in place for USA flights departing 10 airports in Muslim-majority countries. They don't believe it's any safer for electronic items to be in check luggage.

The move prompted the USA out of fears that a bomb could be concealed in electronic devices.

David Lapan, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, said the agency had not decided whether to extend the ban.

DHS officials are expected to speak to airline industry representations and lawmakers Thursday about security and consideration of the ban.

The Financial Times reports that the Department of Homeland Security will continue to evaluate the threat environment but has "not made any decisions on expanding the current restrictions".

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

Passengers on flights covered by the restrictions are required to carry anything bigger than a smartphone in checked baggage.

Top European officials are set to talk with the Head of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Friday, as the EU seeks information from the US about a possible ban on larger electronic devices on flights from Europe.

A European Union spokeswoman confirmed the call with EU commissioners and transport ministers had been scheduled with Kelly for Friday.

Among the measures suggested, Bloomberg reported, were using explosive-detection swabs and X-ray technology to detect anything that might make passengers' electronic devices a security risk.

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.

But Homeland Security officials met Thursday with high-ranking executives of the three leading US airlines - American, Delta and United - and the industry's leading USA trade group, Airlines for America, to discuss expanding the laptop policy to flights arriving from Europe.

A spokesperson for trade association Airlines for America declines to comment. The UK imposed a similar ban shortly after, although its list of countries notably excluded the large hubs in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha.

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