31 May 2017

US holds off on expansion of laptop ban – for now

The Department of Homeland Security announced that Secretary John Kelly did not make an announcement regarding “a much-discussed expansion” of the so-called laptop ban.

The no-announcement announcement followed a telephone call with European Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos and Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc.

Press Secretary Dave Lapan said Secretary Kelly “made it clear that an expansion is still on the table.”

He said the secretary had affirmed he would implement any measures necessary to ensure aviation security, including expanding the ban “if the intelligence and threat level warrant it.”

In US government-speak, this means no further action will be taken unless conditions change that force the issue.

Rumors have been swirling furiously that the laptop ban would be expanded to flights to the US from Europe and even from the rest of the world.

The ban, currently in effect on nonstop flights to the US from 10 airports in the Middle East and Africa, prohibits passengers from transporting any electronic device larger than a smartphone in the passenger cabin.

Larger devices – laptops, tablets, some gaming devices, etc. – must be transported in checked luggage.

Opponents of the ban express concerns over the danger of stowing large numbers of lithium batteries in close quarters in the hold.

On the evening before the latest DHS statement was issued, a JetBlue flight from New York to San Francisco made an emergency landing at Grand Rapids, Mich., after the lithium battery in a laptop stowed in an overhead bin caught fire.

Had the laptop been stowed in the hold, crewmembers would have been unable to reach it.

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