Electronics Ban Expansion "Likely and Imminent" — Unless Airports Cooperate
After weeks and weeks of back-and-forth about a possible electronics ban expansion to European — and maybe even domestic — flights, we're hearing reports that yet another attempt will be made to expand the ban. However, this time around, we finally have some details about what airports can do to avoid being included in the rumored expansion.
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly spoke with CNN about the possibility of expanding the ban. He reiterated that there are currently "roughly 70 airports being considered for an expansion of the ban" across Europe, Africa and the Middle East. In discussions with lawmakers last week, the "expansion of the ban is likely and imminent." However, Kelly also revealed that he's giving these airports an out.
In the most-recent CNN interview, Kelly explained it this way:
We have already talked to airlines, we'll talk to my counterparts, I'll start making phone calls and say, 'These are the seven, eight, nine, 10 things that we all need to do', including the United States. Some of them are short-term, immediate, some of them are kind of moderately long, some of them are long-term, and some of them are even based on, as we develop new technology, the expectation is once it's commercially available, you'll buy it.
So what are the 7-10 things that airports will have to do? According to CNN, these will require the airport to share more information about passengers and put additional procedures in place surrounding airport workers. Pointing to the Metrojet bombing in 2015 being tied to a compromised airport worker, airports will need to implement "enhanced testing and an effort to combat the insider threat from employees."
If airports don't cooperate fully, they will be added to the list of affected airports. Once the ban is expanded to these locations, passengers flying on nonstop flights from these airports to the US will be required to check their large electronic devices in their checked baggage, unless the airline allows for gate-checking of these devices. Large electronic devices are typically considered to be anything larger than a cell phone, which includes cameras, e-readers, laptops and even headphones.
Perhaps the best part of this news? The airports included in the original electronics ban might be cleared. When CNN asked Kelly if the same get-out-of-the-electronics-ban provisions would be open to the original 10 airports in the Middle East and Africa, he responded "absolutely, no doubt."
That said, there are questions as to whether Kelly would actually take some of the original 10 off of the list. It would still be his call whether these airports were complying enough with the DHS to be removed from the ban. Considering the short notice that these airports received before the original ban — there was no back-and-forth with airlines and politicians before it happened — and the damage that's being done to US-carrier competition, it's hard to be optimistic that the DHS would actually clear these original airports from the electronics ban.