U.S. unveils enhanced airline security
plan to avoid laptop ban
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[June 29, 2017]
By David Shepardson and Alana Wise
WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - The United
States on Wednesday unveiled enhanced security measures for flights to
the country designed to prevent expanding an in-cabin ban on laptops,
but an airline trade group said the changes might cause more
The measures, which European and U.S. officials said would begin taking
effect within three weeks, could require additional time to screen
passengers and personal electronic devices for possible explosives.
The measures would affect 325,000 airline passengers on about 2,000
commercial flights arriving daily in the United States, on 180 airlines
from 280 airports in 105 countries.
The United States in March banned laptops on flights to the United
States originating at 10 airports in eight countries, including Egypt,
Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and Turkey, to address fears that bombs
could be concealed in electronic devices taken aboard aircraft.
Britain quickly followed suit with a similar set of restrictions.
The decision not to impose new laptop restrictions eases U.S. and
European airlines' concern that expanding the ban to Europe or other
locations could cause major logistical problems and deter travel.
"Inaction is not an option," U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly
told a news briefing, adding that he believed airlines would comply with
the new screening. But he said the measures were not the last step to
tighten security. U.S. carriers said they would follow the new security
directive, but industry trade group Airlines for America (A4A),
criticized Homeland Security for not working more closely with them on
the new policies.
"The development of the security directive should have been subject to a
greater degree of collaboration and coordination to avoid the
significant operational disruptions and unnecessarily frustrating
consequences for the traveling public that appear likely to happen," A4A
Chief Executive Nicholas E. Calio said in a statement.
Kelly had been saying since April he thought an expansion of the laptop
ban was "likely." He said in late May the government could potentially
expand the ban worldwide.
Homeland Security officials told reporters they expected more than 99
percent of airlines would comply, a move that would effectively end the
controversial electronics ban.
Airlines that fail to satisfy new security requirements could still face
in-cabin electronics restrictions, Kelly said. "We expect all airlines
will work with us to keep their aircraft, their crew and their
passengers safe," he said.
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Passengers use their laptops on a flight out of John F. Kennedy
(JFK) International Airport in New York, U.S., May 26, 2017. Picture
taken May 26, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo
European and U.S. officials told Reuters that airlines have 21 days
to put in place increased explosive trace detection screening and
have 120 days to comply with other security measures, including
enhanced screening of airline passengers.
U.S. authorities want increased security protocols around aircraft
and in passenger areas, expanded canine screening and additional
places where travelers can be cleared by U.S. officials before they
Since laptops are widely used in flight by business class passengers
- who pay double or more than the average ticket price - the airline
industry had feared expanding the ban could cut into revenue.
Airline officials told Reuters they were concerned about adding
enhanced security measures to all airports worldwide that have
direct flights to the United States rather than focus them on
airports where threats are highest. European airline groups said in
a document reviewed by Reuters that if the threats are confirmed,
the restrictions should be deployed to cover all EU departing
flights, not just U.S.-bound flights.
Homeland security officials said Wednesday that those 10 airports
can get off the list if they meet the new security requirements, but
did not say how long it will take.
U.S. airline stocks rose on Wednesday, with United Continental
Holdings <UAL.N> closing up 1 percent, Delta Air Lines Inc <DAL.N>
up 2 percent and American Airlines Group <AAL.O> up 1.6 percent.
Kelly said last week he planned a "step by step" security
enhancement plan that included short, medium-term and longer-term
improvements that would take at least a year to implement fully.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Additional reporting by Alana Wise
in New York and Julia Fioretti in Brussels; Editing by Chris Sanders
and Richard Chang)
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