Trump Administration Considers Extending Laptop Ban to European and UK Airports

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Apr 25
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The United States issued a directive last month barring passengers who were flying to the country from a few Middle Eastern nations from carrying any electronic device larger than a smartphone. It appears the Trump administration is now considering to extend this ban to the European airports, as well.

Trump administration might also ban laptops on flights from Europe

In a move that is likely to frustrate passengers, especially business class travelers, the United States is considering to expand the ban on carrying any electronic device larger than a smartphone in the cabin. The Guardian reported that the “British officials understand that their US counterparts are looking at extending the ban.”

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While the restriction on the European flights hasn’t been issued yet, it is likely to work similar to the Middle Eastern flights. Passengers from 8 Middle Eastern airports (Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates) have to stow their electronic devices in the checked-in baggage on flights to the United States. The ban was issued in response to intelligence that terrorists are trying to smuggle explosives onto aircraft disguised as electronic devices. The directive by the US Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) to airlines is believed to be valid until 14 October 2017. However, it could be further extended.

The directive had attracted criticism from the technology sector as experts said explosives would work anyway, whether they are inside the cabin or held in the cargo. “It doesn’t match a conventional threat model,” Nicholas Weaver from the International Computer Science Institute at the University of California, Berkeley, had said. “If you assume the attacker is interested in turning a laptop into a bomb, it would work just as well in the cargo hold.”

If the restriction is further extended to Europe, it will strongly affect the London to New York flight, which is the busiest long-haul route in the world. Businesses often offer their employees first class tickets to help them get the work done during long-haul flights. If they cannot work on the flight, it is likely many will move to cheaper economy seats.

Following the ban, Gulf airlines like Etihad started to offer free WiFi along with iPads to the First and Business Class guests. While these complimentary services help get some work done, it would still require some workaround to get access to data via different devices. Even if that’s arranged by businesses, it then creates privacy concerns among business travelers.

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Currently, it appears unlikely that this ban will be extended to the UK and European airports. But if it is indeed expanded, the effects will be felt by tens of thousands of business travelers. “We’ve said we will continue to evaluate the threat environment and make determinations based on that assessment, but we have not made any decisions on expanding the current restrictions against large electronic devices in aircraft cabins from selected airports,” Gillian Christensen, a spokeswoman for the US Department of Homeland Security, told the The Guardian.

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