US to ban laptops on flights from all cities in Europe, media reports say

Travelers to the U.S. from Europe may no longer be able to use laptops in the cabin.
Travelers to the U.S. from Europe may no longer be able to use laptops in the cabin. Creative Commons

The U.S. is likely to ban laptops in the cabin on all U.S.-bound flights departing from Europe, media reports said Wednesday.

Reuters cited six American and European officials who said the U.S. Department of Homeland Security was expected to announce the ban, but they did not know when. DHS spokesman Dave Lapan told Reuters that department Secretary John Kelly “hasn’t made a decision but we continue to evaluate the threat environment and have engaged in discussions with airline representatives and other stakeholders about the threat.”

Laptops would still be allowed in checked baggage, but it is unclear how authorities would ensure lithium batteries stored in the hold wouldn’t explode during the flight. Devices with such batteries have started fires aboard aircraft before, but no one would be able to extinguish the flames if a fire were to start in the cargo hold.

A ban on flights from Europe would follow a similar action take by the Trump administration in March, when it announced electronic devices larger than a cellphone would be restricted on flights originating in 10 airports in the Middle East and North Africa. DHS said the move was necessary due to terrorist threats aimed at commercial aviation. The department is constantly evaluating threats and said it aims to protect travelers but doesn’t want to cause “unnecessary disruption.”

DHS said its Middle East/North Africa ban would stay in place until the threat changes, and indicated in a Q&A about the policy in March that additional destinations could be added if deemed necessary.

Following the U.S. announcement in March, Britain implemented a similar measure on flights from six Middle Eastern countries.

DHS confirmed to the Daily Beast that a European ban was “under consideration.” It’s not clear if the measure would include other devices like tablets.

Terrorists have targeted European airports, with two Islamic State group suicide bombers setting off explosive in the Brussels airport in March 2016. That attack, which also targeted a metro station, killed 32 people.