In comments made today by Homeland Secretary John Kelly, it appears that not only is an electronics ban imminent, it may extend beyond the original expectation of the ban.
As recently as last week, a group of security leaders and airline officials from several countries had apparently tabled the idea of expanding the electronics ban on flights originating from Europe. Amazing that in a week we can go from “The Idea Is Tabled” to the potential ban being worse than initially advertised.
But now, not only does it appear imminent that a ban on electronics will happen in the not too distant future, it very well may cover flights that originate from the USA.
In his comments Kelly did not commit to the idea nor did he deny the possibility. In fact he was quoted as saying “No, they didn’t misread me” when asked about his thoughts and willingness to include flights from the USA in any ban. What was not mentioned was how far reaching the ban would be and if it would extend beyond just flights to Europe.
The TSA has announced a trial program focused on increasing the scrutiny of electronic devices that are brought aboard aircraft.
The experiment has been quietly launched at 10 airports throughout the USA and requires passengers to unpack any electronic device larger than a phone, and place the devices in a separate screening bin.
The TSA hopes to prove that the increased security measures will not lead to increased wait times at Security Checkpoints. Their belief is that if passengers remove all electronic devices from the bags, it leaves little room for misunderstandings. For example in my own travels, I’ve experienced some airports requiring iPads to be removed, while other airports said iPads could be left in a bag. With one consistent system-wide rule, it might actually decrease screening delays due to bags needing to be rescreened because there are no clear set of rules.
Personally, I’m not sure why the TSA has to go through ordeal of retooling something that hasn’t caught anyone trying to bring an explosive aboard a plane inside of an electronics device. It seems like they are trying to fix something that isn’t broken. I don’t see where anything substantial would be gained as far improving the screening process is concerned. But that’s just me.
For those of us in the PreCheck program, rest easy. The enhanced screening will not apply to PreCheck members.
As of now, the following airports are part of the TSA’s trial and testing of this new concept:
- Boise Airport (BOI)
- Colorado Springs Airport (COS)
- Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW)
- Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL)
- Logan International Airport (BOS)
- Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
- Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport (LBB)
- Luis Munoz Marin International Airport (SJU)
- McCarran International Airport (LAS)
- Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX)
After a series of meetings in Brussels, involving heads of national security for the EU and USA, as well as airline security specialists it appears that an Electronics ban on flights between Europe and the USA may not be as imminent as we had feared.
In comments made by the group, it appears that there is an increased willingness for airlines to work with one another as well as will government security specialists in order to prevent the ban.
This information sharing included confidential exchange of intelligence between the EU and the Department of Homeland Security in the USA.
Critics of the ban suggest that a ban would cost passengers $1 billion in lost productivity each year and lead to a significant drop in air traffic between Europe and the USA.
According to one meeting participant, it was suggested that the electronics ban was ‘off the table’ at this point and no plans exist for implementing one in the near term.
This same group is scheduled to meeting in Washington DC next week to expand on their discussions. We can only hope that they realize how frivolous such a ban would be and continue to avoid its implementation.
Homeland Security officials announced today that they are talking to airlines and helping them prepare for an expansion of the current electronics ban.
The new warning suggests that Western Europe and other regions around the world will become subject to a policy that is currently only effect on a handful of carriers operating from a handful of North African and Mideast airports.
The ban will prevent passengers from bringing electronic devices larger than a smart phone aboard their USA-bound flights. DHS officials in their comments declined to say which regions are being targeted for the expanded ban, but did not rule out Western Europe as one of their primary focuses.
The DHS claims that it is acting on real and reliable intelligence that has led them to consider casting a wider net for the policy. No timetable has been announced for the implementation of expanded ban, but with DHS meeting with airlines to discuss the policy, the timing might be sooner than later.
Related: Electronics ban may be expanded
Earlier today, headlines started to pop up suggesting that the TSA was entertaining the idea of expanding the current Laptop ban to include the whole of Europe, including the UK. Mind you, this is a TSA that has a 95% failure rate when it comes to screening tests.
Currently the ban applies to certain carriers operating from certain Mid-Eastern countries, so news of the ban being expanding comes as a bit of a frustrating surprise.
Homeland Security officials in the USA have not commented on this other than the generic and predictable ‘We’re considering all options and have not made any decisions’ type of worthless commentary.
Any new policy or expansion of the existing version would mean that a device larger than a ‘Smart Phone’ would be considered too large to bring aboard, including any kind of laptop or tablet device.
Maybe at this point, major US and European carriers will speak up against the ridiculous policy and sway their respective governments. Now that the shoe may be put on the other foot, lets see how non-Mideast carriers will respond.
Predictably to this point, the non-M/E carriers have not spoken out against the current ban since the existing policy hurts their competitors. Let’s see what kind of whining we’ll get if everyone has to play by the same rules, regardless of how stupid and ineffective the rules would be.