It looks like the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is about to roll out a laptop ban on flights from Europe to the United States. This would effectively extend the ban already in place for 10 Muslim counties to all travellers alighting from Europe. Here are the details.
Image from Bill Damon
The report comes via The Daily Beast, citing unnamed European security officials.
The Trump administration first placed an electronics ban in March on flights to the US from 10 airports in eight Muslim-majority countries in North Africa and the Middle East. At the time, US officials cited concerns over intelligence information suggesting that terrorist groups are developing technology to hide bombs in portable electronic devices.
The upcoming ban appears to be a geographic extension of this electronics block. In March, the DHS hinted that more airports could be added in the future. "As threats change, so too will TSA's security requirements," reads a FAQ on the DHS website.
So far, there are no reported or official parameters. There's no information on whether select airports are affected or if US-bound flights from all European airports will be impacted. Or exact electronics slated to be barred.
If the pending regulations follow the criteria of the existing electronics ban, this is what travellers should expect: a ban on laptop computers, tablets, cameras, portable DVD players, electronic gaming units and electronics larger than mobile phones into the cabins of an aircraft. Instead of storing these devices in carry-on bags, passengers will have to store them in checked-in luggage. Smartphones and essential medical equipment are still permitted into cabins.
What would this mean for the average US-bound traveller?
First off, if you're hoping to get work done while in transit, you're probably out of luck (unless you can go the pen-and-paper route). Secondly, waiting at the gate and enduring a multi-hour flight is about to get a lot more boring: get ready to rely on in-flight entertainment or reading books and magazines in something called "print." (Smartphones are still permitted, so you can download entertainment on your phone and access on aeroplane mode.) And if you're transferring at an affected airport, consider your packing strategy in advance: the TSA advises that you place your electronics in your checked bags at the originating airport.
As for how long the ban will be in effect, the DHS has no set timeline for March's ban -- and it's likely going to be the same deal for forthcoming restrictions as well.
The intent behind such bans is to enhance security, according to the government, but in fact the move poses its own risks. Many devices - including laptops - are powered by lithium-ion batteries; with these gadgets stowed away in baggage hold, there is a greater risk of fires in cargo. In fact, the Federal Aviation Administration announced last year that lithium-ion batteries in cargo could be "catastrophic."