US, EU in urgent discussions on pitch to expand laptop ban

The Department of Homeland Security is considering banning laptops and other large electronic devices from carry-on bags on flights from Europe to the United States, a department spokesman said on Wednesday.

The ban was first implemented in March, and is in place for U.S. flights departing 10 airports in Muslim-majority countries.

They must be placed in checked baggage.

"We'll likely expand the restrictions", he said.

In a letter to Kelly and Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, EU Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc and Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos asked for meetings "as a matter of urgency, both at political and technical level, to jointly assess the risk and review possible common measures", Reuters reports.

The potential move would expand restrictions imposed in March by the US and Britain to ban electronic devices larger than a smartphone in passenger cabins of flights from eight Middle Eastern and African countries.

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But aviation experts say storing large numbers of devices with lithium batteries in the cargo hold of a plane constitutes a fire risk.

The United States could soon expand its laptop band to all flights coming from Europe. European airport security measures are closely aligned with American measures, and USA aviation security has had its own failures. Under the new administration, arrivals to the US are forecast to drop slightly to 84.2 million for the period.

In March, the US announced laptop restrictions on flights originating from 10 airports including in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey because of fears that a concealed bomb could be installed in electronic devices taken onto aircraft. "The intelligence is pointing to something else beyond that".

Caroline Bremner, head of travel at research firm Euromonitor International, said that before President Trump took office the US was expected to see 85.2 million airline passenger arrivals by 2020.

The ban would affect trans-Atlantic routes that carry as many as 65 million people a year on over 400 daily flights, many of them business travelers who rely on their electronics to work during the flight.

The United Kingdom has a similar ban in place for some in-bound flights, although its list of targeted countries differs from that of the United States.

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The specifics of the restrictions under consideration are not yet clear.

Friday's talks and this week's meetings follow a push by airlines and several countries affected by the electronics ban for more consultation with American and British regulators following the abrupt introduction in March, which largely took the industry by surprise. Approved medical devices are exempt, but must go through additional screening. United Airlines shares were trading down 1% in NY.

The officials had asked that the US and Europe continue to cooperate on a "joint response to shared threats".

"No ban on electronic devices or any other decision has been announced", she said.

US and European carriers are concerned about the logistics of checking large numbers of devices.

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