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22nd Sep 2018

EU and US discuss in-flight laptop ban

  • London-Heathrow airport operates some 761 direct flights to the United States every week. (Photo: wikipedia)

US authorities discussed an in-cabin laptop ban on transatlantic flights from the EU following a meeting with their European counterparts in Brussels.

Officials from both sides of the Atlantic on Wednesday (17 May) agreed to meet again next week to work out the technical details, but said no definitive decision had been made.

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A senior Trump administration official told reporters that any plan to expand the restrictions on large electronic devices, such as laptops, in aircraft cabins remained under consideration.

The US official noted terrorist groups were "aggressively pursuing innovative methods to undertake their attacks, including smuggling explosive devices in various consumer items" onto commercial flights.

He said that US homeland security secretary, John F. Kelly, could decide on the measure "in the next several days or in the next several weeks".

In March, the US imposed a similar ban on some 10 airports from eight countries around the Middle East and parts of north Africa, with the UK also taking similar measures.

EU officials had called the meeting, described as an exchange of views, following US announcements to possibly extend the electronic restrictions onto US-bound flights from Europe.

A Europe-wide ban could affect well over 3,000 direct flights made every week to the US, likely causing disruptions.

The five airports with the largest number of US weekly flights are: London-Heathrow (761 flights), Paris-Charles de Gaulle (353 flights), Frankfurt (291 flights), Amsterdam-Schiphol (242 flights) and Dublin (179 flights), according to the Brussels-based industry group, Airports Council International.

Together, these five airports accounted for nearly 50 percent of the weekly flights to the US.

Concerns have also been raised about fire hazards from storing so many laptops with Lithium ion batteries in cargo hulls on planes.

The four-hour meeting on Wednesday was held between US deputy secretary of homeland security Elaine Duke and her counterparts from France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and the UK.

The EU commissioners for home affairs, Dimitris Avramopoulos, and transport, Violeta Bulc, were also present.

In a joint-statement released after the meeting, the European Commission said that both sides had exchanged information on the evolving threats to aviation security and would meet again in Washington next week.

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