Talks on airplane laptop ban end with no ban, more talks

Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly speaks about border security during a press briefing at the White House in Washington

Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly speaks about border security during a press briefing at the White House in Washington

Passengers on flights from a number of Middle Eastern and north African airports are already banned from taking devices larger than a smartphone into the cabin on flights to the US.

"We are concerned about the consequences that such a ban would have on demand for trans-Atlantic air travel", Olivier Jankovec, director-general of ACI Europe, said in a statement.

The International Air Transport Association, a trade group representing 265 carriers that has been critical of expanding the ban, said the meeting was welcome "but industry needs to be involved".

Pace University management professor Andrew Coggins Jr. pointed out that putting laptops in checked bags "exposes them to theft and damage", and inconveniences business travelers who may also use their laptops during long global flights.

The ban took on new political overtones this week after The Washington Post reported that Trump disclosed classified information to Russia's top diplomat about a terror plot to sneak bombs into laptops. "In 2016, 31 million passengers departed European airports on flights to the USA of which 3.5 million were connecting from flights that originated outside of Europe".

This follows yesterday's four-hour meeting of top officials and experts in Brussels, including Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos, European Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc and a USA delegation led by Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke.

According to the Times report, during the meeting homeland security officials shared insights into a developing aviation security threat, including that terrorist groups were pursuing various new strategies that included putting explosives into consumer devices. Airlines and aviation experts are concerned that storing a large number of devices containing lithium ion batteries inside a plane's cargo hold could cause a fire, which would be hard to extinguish because fire suppression systems work by depleting an area of oxygen.

USA and European Union officials agreed Wednesday to scrap plans to ban laptops and tablets in cabin baggage on flights from Europe.

The airlines still hope to have a say in how the policy is put into effect at airports to minimize inconvenience to passengers.

An official who attended Wednesday's meeting told the Associated Press that an extended ban to include Europe was "off the table" for now.

"We've spent billions over the years [on air travel security] and I'm now expected to be on a twelve plus hour flight without my laptop or e-reader?"

Three of the top US airlines would be hit hardest by the expanded ban. Tablets and laptops must be stowed in checked baggage.

A spokesman for Homeland Security said Wednesday no decision was expected this week on expanding the ban.

"We don't believe that threat is going away", said Lapan.

"You need a lot of time to inform them and a lot of time for it to enter people's heads until it becomes a habit", he said.

This week's meeting took place following news that the USA would extend its ban on in-flight laptops and other large electronics on flights coming from Europe.

"If some flights' options allow certain electronics or provide substitutes", Surry said, "it may sway the traveler's decision about which airline to fly". It said that the risk arising from storing PEDs in the hold where they may catch fire without being noticed "could be greater than the security risk of having them in the cabin'".

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