White House hears European concerns over flight laptop ban

White House hears European concerns over flight laptop ban
© Getty Images

The White House heard the concerns of European Union officials on Friday as the Trump administration considers banning large electronics in the cabins of U.S.-bound flights from Europe.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) confirmed that it is weighing whether to expand the laptop ban, which currently applies to select airports in Africa and the Middle East, but a DHS spokesperson said that a final decision is not expected to come before the weekend.

DHS Secretary John Kelly held a conference call with a number of European ministers and members of the EU's European Commission (EC) in what was described as a “very constructive exchange of views on the way forward between the U.S. and the EU,” according to an EC spokesperson.

The administration also briefed U.S. senators and major airlines on the potential laptop ban expansion on Thursday.

ADVERTISEMENT
European officials on Friday's call highlighted potential safety concerns over storing more large electronics underneath the aircraft and urged the U.S. not to take unilateral action on the matter.

“Information should be shared, and ... responses [to threats] should be common,” emphasized one commissioner, according to an EC spokesperson.

They also invited the administration to visit Brussels next week to engage in talks, hosted by the European Commission, in order to “jointly assess the potential risks and review future measures.”

The DHS initially imposed the electronics ban on inbound flights coming from 10 different airports in Jordan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt, Qatar, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates.

Under the policy, passengers are prohibited from carrying electronic devices larger than a cellphone — such as laptops, tablets, cameras and portable DVD players — into cabins of select flights, but can still stow the items in checked luggage.

But European flights account for a much larger slice of the travel population, with 40 percent of overseas travelers coming from Europe on more than 350 flights a day.

There is widespread concern among the airline and travel industry about how the policy could throw daily operations into chaos and hurt overall global business and tourism.

Some travel advocacy groups are urging the administration to consider other alternatives to the ban, like beefing up enrollment in trusted traveler programs.

Senior administration officials say the new security protocols are necessary because terrorist groups are pursuing innovative methods to smuggle explosive devices onto commercial flights — something the U.S. government has long been concerned about.