Will lap­top ban be ex­panded?

Fed­eral data show that stor­ing elec­tronic de­vices in the cargo area of a plane could in­crease risk of fire.

Los Angeles Times - - BUSINESS BEAT - By Hugo Martin hugo.martin@la­times.com Twit­ter: @hugo­martin

As the U.S. govern­ment con­sid­ers ex­pand­ing a ban on lap­top com­put­ers and other elec­tronic de­vices from the cab­ins of com­mer­cial flights, fed­eral data show that stor­ing such de­vices in the cargo area of a plane could in­crease the risk of fires.

Fed­eral Avi­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion sta­tis­tics in­di­cate that air­plane fires in­volv­ing lithium bat­ter­ies are on the rise.

In 2014, the FAA re­ported that such bat­ter­ies were re­spon­si­ble for nine fires, ex­treme heat or smoke on cargo and pas­sen­ger planes.

That num­ber grew to 16 in 2015, 31 in 2016 and 17 in the first five months of 2017.

Most of the fires or over­heated de­vices were doused with wa­ter or cof­fee or sprayed with a fire ex­tin­guisher.

Three flights were di­verted be­cause of bat­tery fires in that pe­riod.

Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary John Kelly told a House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives panel Wednesday that he is con­sid­er­ing ex­pand­ing the elec­tronic-de­vice ban to 71 ad­di­tional in­ter­na­tional air­ports.

The de­vices aren’t al­lowed in cab­ins of flights orig­i­nat­ing in 10 air­ports, pri­mar­ily in the Mid­dle East. Kelly didn’t name the ad­di­tional air­ports un­der con­sid­er­a­tion.

The re­stric­tions stem from news re­ports that ter­ror­ists may be able to hide ex­plo­sives in elec­tronic de­vices but can­not det­o­nate them re­motely.

The re­stric­tions re­quire pas­sen­gers to store lap­tops and other elec­tron­ics larger than a cell­phone in their checked lug­gage in the cargo com­part­ment.

Dur­ing his tes­ti­mony be­fore the House Committee on Home­land Se­cu­rity, Kelly said he was aware of the fire dan­ger in­volv­ing the bat­ter­ies and hoped for­eign air­ports would in­crease their screen­ing tech­niques to avoid the need to ex­pand the elec­tron­ics ban.

“There’s a lot of talk out there that lithium bat­ter­ies are dan­ger­ous in and of them­selves, that they just burst into flames,” he said. “So we are also deal­ing with that as well.” Se­ri­ous al­le­ga­tions in air­lines dis­pute

A years-old dis­pute over whether to im­pose re­stric­tions on three Mid­dle Eastern air­lines that fly into the United States has reached a new ex­treme: crim­i­nal al­le­ga­tions.

A coalition of U.S.-based air­lines and their pi­lot and flight at­ten­dants unions have been call­ing for re­stric­tions on flights to the United States by Emi­rates, Eti­had and Qatar air­lines, say­ing the car­ri­ers have taken sub­si­dies from their oil-rich gov­ern­ments and there­fore have an un­fair ad­van­tage when com­pet­ing with U.S. air­lines.

The Mid­dle Eastern car­ri­ers dis­pute the al­le­ga­tions.

For­mer Pres­i­dent Obama did not show in­ter­est in plac­ing re­stric­tions on the Mid­dle Eastern air­lines, and nei­ther has Pres­i­dent Trump.

Now the coalition, in­clud­ing United, Amer­i­can and Delta air­lines, are tak­ing shots at the U.S. Travel Assn., the na­tion’s largest travel trade group, which has op­posed re­stric­tions on the Mid­dle Eastern car­ri­ers.

The coalition ac­cused the trade group this week of fail­ing to regis­ter as a lob­by­ist for a for­eign agent be­cause Emi­rates and Eti­had be­came two of the U.S. Travel Assn.’s 1,200 mem­bers this year and paid a com­bined $330,000 in mem­ber­ship fees.

“De­spite claim­ing to rep­re­sent the Amer­i­can travel in­dus­try, the U.S. Travel Assn. is pro­mot­ing the in­ter­ests of the United Arab Emi­rates by lob­by­ing on be­half of Emi­rates and Eti­had Air­ways,” said Jill Zuck­man, a spokes­woman for the Part­ner­ship for Open & Fair Skies, the coalition that has been crit­i­cal of the Mid­dle Eastern car­ri­ers.

A vi­o­la­tion of the For­eign Agents Reg­is­tra­tion Act, which was en­acted in 1938, is pun­ish­able by a fine of up to $10,000 or by im­pris­on­ment of up to five years.

The U.S. Travel Assn. dis­missed the ac­cu­sa­tion, noth­ing that it be­gan op­pos­ing re­stric­tions on the Mid­dle Eastern car­ri­ers two years be­fore Eti­had and Emi­rates joined the trade group. The or­ga­ni­za­tion also says that the mem­ber­ship fees from the two car­ri­ers rep­re­sents less than 1% of its $33-mil­lion an­nual rev­enues.

“Their nar­ra­tive doesn't add up in any way at all,” U.S. Travel Assn. spokesman Jonathan Grella said.

Se­dat Suna Euro­pean Pressphoto Agency

PAS­SEN­GERS open their lug­gage to show their elec­tronic de­vices at a se­cu­rity check­point at Ataturk Air­port in Is­tan­bul, Turkey. Sta­tis­tics in­di­cate that air­plane fires in­volv­ing lithium bat­ter­ies are on the rise.

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