European airports currently under consideration for an expanded ban on bringing laptops onto jetliner cabins can avoid this sanction, says U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly.
Kelly told a House of Representatives panel that his deputy will travel to a conference in Malta next week “to present what we think are the minimum increased security standards … and to say if you meet these standards, we will not ban large electronics.”
“We are looking right now at an additional 71 airports,” Kelly told the Congressional panel, adding that many countries are already working to not be added to the ban list by improving screening to detect this device.
Reuters recently reported that the U.S. government might soon ban laptops in the passenger cabin on flights from dozens of airports in Europe—a move that would affect nearly 400 flights a day and cover 30 million travelers
Restrictions on laptops began in March, on flights from the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey.
Homeland Security authorities justified the ban by saying it had reason to fear “a very sophisticated” bomb could be concealed in larger electronic devices. “This is a very serious, constant threat to knock down an airplane,” Kelly said.
Stowing electronic devices in the cargo hold of airplanes, however, has its own risk. At a Senate hearing yesterday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao acknowledged that lithium ion batteries are a fire hazard.
“This is a difficult issue that the administration is grappling with, especially from a security point of view,” Chao said.
On May 30, a JetBlue Airways flight bound for San Francisco was safely diverted to Michigan because of a lithium battery fire from a passenger laptop in the airplane cabin. No one was injured because the fire was detected quickly. If the laptop had been hidden away in the belly of plane, the outcome could have been very different.
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