Will laptop ban be expanded?
Federal data show that storing electronic devices in the cargo area of a plane could increase risk of fire.
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.
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.