U.S. says no announcement planned this week on expanding laptop ban

Reuters News
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Posted: May 30, 2017 1:14 PM

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Department of Homeland Security does not plan to announce an expansion of a ban on laptops in airline cabins this week after Secretary John Kelly spoke to European officials on Tuesday, a department spokesman said.

The spokesman, David Lapan, confirmed that Kelly was speaking to European Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos and Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc on Tuesday.

"This is part of our ongoing engagement with various stakeholders on this issue," Lapan said, declining to elaborate.

Kelly told "Fox News Sunday" over the weekend that he "might" ban laptops from airplane cabins on all international flights both into and out of the United States.

"There’s a real threat. Numerous threats against aviation, that's really the thing that they are obsessed with, the terrorists, the idea of knocking down an airplane in flight," Kelly said.

A European Union official said the call was "good" and "no announcement was made" Tuesday by the United States on expanding the ban on electronics larger than mobile phones. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the United States and the EU were working to continue to find a common response to the threat of explosives to flights.

After meetings with airlines and European officials, the Department of Homeland Security has declined to offer a timetable for making a decision and instead said it would be made by Kelly on a review of threats.

One major issue that has been under consideration is the potential safety implications of storing large numbers of laptop batteries in the cargo holds of airliners.

In March, the United States announced laptop restrictions on flights originating from 10 airports, including in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, because of fears that a concealed bomb could be installed in electronic devices taken onto aircraft.

Britain quickly followed suit with restrictions on a slightly different set of routes.

(Reporting by David Shepardson. Additional reporting by Julia C. Fioretti in Brussels; editing by Jonathan Oatis)