Top US Official Confirms
Laptop Restrictions on Flights May Expand
April 6, 2017
The United States may soon extend its ban on computers in the
cabin on some flights from the Middle East and Africa to more
airports, the head of Homeland Security confirmed Wednesday.
Secretary John Kelly told a Senate committee that the Department
of Homeland Security may "take measures in the not too distant
future to expand the number of airports" affected by
restrictions on laptops and tablet computers over concerns that
terrorists may target commercial aviation by concealing
explosives in larger electronics.
Kelly's comments during Wednesday's hearing on Capitol Hill
followed similar remarks by DHS spokesman David Lapan, who a day
earlier told USA Today, “I’m not saying anything is imminent,
but I’m not ruling anything out."
Travelers on direct flights to the United States from 10
airports in eight Middle Eastern and North African countries are
required to pack any electronics larger than a mobile phone into
their checked luggage.
The United States announced the indefinite in-cabin electronics
ban March 21 in the wake of an executive order that affected
travelers from the same regions. Taken together, the two
measures immediately drew criticism that the Trump
administration was discriminating against the majority-Muslim
‘Real threat all the time’
Kelly dismissed the criticism at the hearing, saying he did not
make the new protocol "because of the Muslim religion or the
color of their skin."
"We know that on any given day there are dozens of [terror]
cells that are talking about attacking aviation ... there's a
real threat all the time."
"It's real. It's getting realer, so to speak," he said. The
secretary did not elaborate on the nature of the threats or why
the airports were chosen.
Great Britain implemented a similar ban the day after the U.S.,
affecting direct flights from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey,
Saudi Arabia, Tunisia.
Australia announced last Friday it would increase baggage
screening on flights from Dubai and Abu Dhabi, in the United
Arab Emirates, and Doha, Qatar, but would not ban electronics in
Security officials have raised concerns about potential new
methods of concealing explosives inside electronics that may
evade detection during airport screenings, CNN reported last
The affected airports include: Queen Alia International Airport
(Jordan), Cairo International Airport (Egypt), Ataturk
International Airport (Turkey), King AbdulAziz International
Airport (Saudi Arabia), King Khalid International Airport (Saudi
Arabic), Kuwait International Airport (Kuwait), Mohammed V
Airport (Morocco), Hamad International Airport (Qatar), Dubai
International Airport (UAE), and Abu Dhabi International Airport
The list of countries
affected by the electronics restrictions does not overlap with
the countries affected by an executive order issued in March
barring travelers from six Middle Eastern and African countries.
That order has since been suspended due to pending lawsuits
around the U.S. Moreover, those countries do not have direct
flights to the U.S., and the electronics limits are currently
limited to direct flights from the same regions.
Several airlines are trying to keep customers happy by working
around the restrictions, providing laptops or tablet computers
to some passengers and offering to check laptops into the cargo
hold at the gate, to allow travelers to keep their devices until
they board a flight.