Published on Friday, May 12, 2017

Laptop ban on flights from Europe possible 'within two weeks'

The EU has demanded urgent talks with the US over a possible extension of its ban on laptops in cabin bags to flights from some European airports.

Major US airlines met with US Homeland Security officials yesterday to discuss the impact of extending the ban, which has applied since March to flights from 10 airports - mainly in the Middle East and north Africa - to flights from Europe.

"We'll likely expand the restrictions," said a Department of Homeland Security spokesman David Lapan, but the department has given no indication of when this will happen. A US official said it could begin within two weeks while a source in Europe said it may even be implemented as early as this week.

Like the original electronics ban, this proposed expansion has not been sparked by any singular specific threat, officials said, but they are concerned that a bomb could be concealed in a laptop or other large electronic, hand-held device.

The UK has introduced a similar electronics ban in cabin bags on flights from Turkey and selected countries in north Africa and the Middle East.

"We have not made any decisions on expanding the electronics ban; however, we are continuously assessing security directives based on intelligence and will make changes when necessary to keep travelers safe," the Transportation Security Administration said in a statement.

In a letter to John Kelly, Secretary of Homeland Security, and Elaine Chao, US Secretary of Transportation, and seen by news organization Reuters, the EU said it was important that information concerning possible threats involving EU airports be shared.

"We therefore reiterate our willingness to pursue constructive dialogue and we propose that meetings are held as a matter of urgency, both at political and technical level, to jointly assess the risk and review possible common measures," wrote Violeta Bulc, EU Transport Commissioner, and Dimitris Avramopoulos, Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship.

Middle East-based Emirates Airlines has blamed its decision to slash flights from Dubai to the US on the electronics ban, which it claims has led to a drop in demand.

However, the US fears that passengers could circumvent the ban by travelling from the Middle East to Europe and taking a connecting flight to the US. The UK electronics ban does not include flights from Dubai and certain other countries on the US banned list.

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