After months of speculation, the Department of Homeland Security plans to move forward with enhanced security measures that do not include an expanded ban on laptops for airports and airlines that follow the new guidelines.
In an outline, DHS says it is implementing enhanced security measures at “more than 280 last-point-of-departure airports with direct commercial flights to the U.S., in 105 countries around the world.” Measures include:
- Enhancing overall passenger screening;
- Conducting heightened screening of personal electronic devices;
- Increasing security protocols around aircraft and in passenger areas; and
- Deploying advanced technology, expanding canine screening, and establishing additional preclearance locations.
The DHS also states it will work with “aviation stakeholders,” including airlines and foreign airports, “to ensure these enhanced security measures are fully implemented.”
This is a key point: “Stakeholders who do not fulfill these requirements within certain timeframes may still be subject to additional security restrictions being imposed, including a ban on large personal electronic devices on aircraft.”
DHS adds there is no change to what passengers can and cannot bring onboard, but people flying to the U.S. may experience “additional screening of their person and property.” The agency is deliberately vague about the timing, saying the new measures will largely roll out over the next several weeks and months.
The U.S. banned laptops on flights to the U.S. from 10 airports in eight Middle-Eastern and African countries, including Egypt, Turkey, Qatar, Morocco, and the United Arab Emirates. DHS Secretary John Kelly recently said those airports can come off the list “by simply doing the kind of things that we’re talking about here in terms of raising aviation security.” Presumably, these are the same policies the U.S. is implementing now.
It’s certainly fair to question whether or not this ban was ever necessary in the first place. However, the decision to not expand the laptop ban is a positive development for travelers. Banishing laptops to the cargo hold created a significant inconvenience for passengers, specifically business travelers. The ban affects inbound flights only, meaning passengers can carry laptops on the outbound portion of the trip, but not on the return home.
This ban has also put pressure on airlines due to the inconvenience imposed on high-margin business travelers.
Further, there is concern that packing laptops in the cargo hold posed a fire hazard. Many laptops (and other electronic devices) use on lithium-ion batteries, which occasionally overheat and can potentially start a fire. There’s no way to extinguish a fire in the cargo hold, which … well you can see the problem.
Readers, do you think this is the right call? Were you in favor of banning laptops and large electronic devices from the cabin?