MS Risk Blog

US Will Not Widen Ban on Laptops in Cabin Luggage

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According to a Homeland Security official, an American ban on taking laptops in cabin baggage on flights from several countries in the Middle East and North Africa will not be expanded, for now.

Reports had initially indicated that the ban on laptops and tablets in cabins of transatlantic flights to the US was “likely” to take place as an American delegation meet with European government officials earlier this month.  The move however has since been declined.  According to Homeland Security spokesman Dave Lapan, such a move could affect routes carrying as many as 65 million people a year on more than 400 daily flights.

Currently, US-bound passengers travelling from ten airports in eight countries are not able to carry large electronic devices on board and have to instead place these items in checked-in luggage in the hold. Since March of this year, this ban has affected flights originating in Amman, Jordan; Kuwait City, Kuwait; Cairo, Egypt; Istanbul Turkey; Jeddah and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Casablanca, Morocco; Doha, Qatar; and Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. The nine airlines affected by this ban are Royal Jordanian, EgyptAir, Turkish Airlines, Saudia, Kuwait Airlines, Royal Air Maroc, Qatar Airways, Emirates and Etihad Airways. Overall, these airlines operate about fifty direct flights to the US every day. Separately, there is also a British ban in place, which targets flights out of Egypt, Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Tunisia.

The bans were introduced this year amidst growing fears that terrorists are perfecting explosive devices small enough to fit inside consumer electronics in an attempt to bring down commercial airlines. The move was reportedly linked to a threat from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and was prompted by intelligence. The group boasts one of the world’s most feared bomb makers – Ibrahim Hassan al Asiri. Authorities are concerned about plots similar to an incident that occurred in Somalia in February 2016 when a bomb hidden in a laptop blew open the side of a plane, failing however to bring it down. Only the bomber was killed in that incident.