DHS Drops Plan to Expand Laptop Ban In Favor Of Tighter Global Security

by Daniel McCarthy
DHS Drops Plan to Expand Laptop Ban In Favor Of Tighter Global Security

Chicago O'Hare Airport. Photo: DLLU

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will not extend its ban on inflight laptops and other large electronic devices to inbound flights from Europe, opting instead to tighten security measures at airports around the globe.

DHS on Wednesday announced enhanced security measures for airlines departing for the U.S. from airports in 105 countries. Airlines that comply with the new rules, which include stricter passenger screening, will not be required to force passengers to check their laptops or other large electronics.

“It is time that we raise the global baseline of aviation security,” Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly said in a speech Wednesday. "We cannot play international whack-a-mole with each new threat.”

Affects 2,000 flights a day
Airlines operating in approximately 280 airports will be affected by the new rules, which will apply to roughly 2,000 international flights daily. Under the new rules, airlines flying from Middle East countries that are currently subject to a laptop ban will be permitted to allow large electronics onboard again once they comply.

According to DHS, most airlines should be able to comply within given time frames. If they don’t, DHS could impose a laptop ban or harsher punishment, including stopping all of an airline’s flights to the U.S.

DHS also said it will urge more airports to become Preclearance locations. It also encouraged airlines and airports to implement “more sophisticated screening,” increased use of bomb-sniffing dogs and more advanced checkpoint screening technology.

Middle East laptop ban
The laptop ban dates to March when the U.S. barred electronics bigger than a smartphone on flights from eight countries in the Middle East. The ban affected about 50 flights a day on nine carriers: Egyptair, Emirates Airline, Etihad Airways, Kuwait Airways, Qatar Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Royal Jordanian Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airlines and Turkish Airlines.

The U.S. and European Union then met in May to discuss a possible expansion of the ban to more than 300 flights a day from Europe. If the laptop ban had been expanded to European flights, it would have cost travelers more than $1 billion and impacted more than 400 daily routes and 65 million passengers each year.

Earlier this month news broke that the United States was seriously considering expanding its ban to inbound flights from dozens of airports in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.  At the time, Kelly told a House of Representatives panel that DHS is “looking right now at an additional 71 airports,” as well as other ways to “mitigate the threat.”

Wednesday’s news takes pressure off of the travel industry and business travelers in particular. Any airline in compliance with the new rules, which will vary depending on where an airline is flying from, will be welcome to allow their passengers to use laptops in flight.

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