U.S. pre­pares to ban lap­tops on flights from Europe

Cape Breton Post - - Business -

The U.S. is ex­pected to broaden its ban on in-flight lap­tops and tablets to in­clude planes from the Euro­pean Union, a move that would cre­ate lo­gis­ti­cal chaos on the world’s busiest cor­ri­dor of air travel.

Alarmed at the pro­posal, which air­line of­fi­cials say is merely a mat­ter of tim­ing, Euro­pean gov­ern­ments held ur­gent talks on Friday with the U.S. Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity.

The ban would af­fect transAt­lantic routes that carry as many as 65 mil­lion peo­ple a year on over 400 daily flights, many of them busi­ness trav­ellers who rely on their elec­tron­ics to work dur­ing the flight.

The ban would dwarf in size the cur­rent one, which was put in place in March and af­fects about 50 flights per day from 10 cities, mostly in the Mid­dle East.

Chief among the con­cerns are whether any new threat prompted the pro­posal and the rel­a­tive safety of keep­ing in the cargo area a large num­ber of elec­tron­ics with lithium bat­ter­ies, which have been known to catch fire. Amer­i­can of­fi­cials were in­vited to Brus­sels next week to dis­cuss the pro­posed ban, the EU said.

Euro­pean Com­mis­sion spokes­woman Anna-Kaisa Itko­nen said the EU had no new in­for­ma­tion about a spe­cific se­cu­rity con­cern.

U.S. of­fi­cials have said the de­ci­sion in March to bar lap­tops and tablets from the cab­ins of some in­ter­na­tional flights wasn’t based on any spe­cific threat but on long­stand­ing con­cerns about ex­trem­ists tar­get­ing jet­lin­ers.

Ex­perts say a bomb in the cabin would be eas­ier to make and re­quire less ex­plo­sive force than one in the cargo hold. Bag­gage in cargo usu­ally goes through a more so­phis­ti­cated screen­ing process than carry-on bags.

Jef­frey Price, an avi­a­tion-se­cu­rity ex­pert at Metropoli­tan State Univer­sity of Den­ver, said the orig­i­nal ban fo­cused on cer­tain coun­tries be­cause their equip­ment to screen carry-on bags is not as ef­fec­tive as ma­chines in the U.S.

A French of­fi­cial who was briefed about Friday’s meet­ing said the Amer­i­cans an­nounced they wanted to ex­tend the ban, and the Euro­peans planned to for­mu­late a re­sponse in com­ing days. The of­fi­cial said the pri­mary ques­tions re­volved around when and how — and not whether — the ban would be im­posed.

The of­fi­cial spoke only on con­di­tion of anonymity to dis­cuss the plan.

Jenny Burke, a Home­land Se­cu­rity spokes­woman, said no fi­nal de­ci­sion has been made on ex­pand­ing the re­stric­tion.

But Home­land Se­cu­rity of­fi­cials met Thurs­day with high­rank­ing ex­ec­u­tives of the three lead­ing U.S. air­lines — Amer­i­can, Delta and United — and the in­dus­try’s lead­ing U.S. trade group, Air­lines for Amer­ica, to dis­cuss ex­pand­ing the lap­top pol­icy to flights ar­riv­ing from Europe.

Two air­line of­fi­cials who were briefed on the dis­cus­sions said Home­land Se­cu­rity gave no timetable for an an­nounce­ment, but they were re­signed to its in­evitabil­ity. They spoke only on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause they were not au­tho­rized to dis­cuss the meet­ing pub­licly.

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

AP PHOTO

In this file photo from Jan­uary, a lap­top is seen in Las Ve­gas. Royal Jor­da­nian Air­lines is ad­vis­ing pas­sen­gers that lap­tops, iPads, cam­eras and other elec­tron­ics won’t be al­lowed in carry-on lug­gage for U.S.-bound flights start­ing Tues­day, March 21. The U.S. is ex­pected to broaden its ban on in-flight lap­tops and tablets to in­clude planes from the Euro­pean Union.

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