Air passengers flying to the U.S. from foreign countries can happily keep working away on their laptop computers – for now, at least — if airlines comply with new requirements announced by Department of Homeland Security.
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly today unveiled enhanced security measures for the 2,000 or so commercial flights arriving daily in the United States from 280 airports in 105 countries. These involve heightened levels of screening of personal electronic devices, passengers, airport staff and explosive detection.
U.S. airlines have expressed concerns that further restrictions on laptops would seriously hurt business, especially among business-class passengers who generate twice or more in fares compared to the average ticket price. Likewise, business travelers have made it clear they want to continue flying with their electronic devices.
In reaction to the new security requirements, Jonathan Grella, executive vice president for public affairs for U.S. Travel Association, said, “It’s not just the travel and tourism industry that’s affected by any new restrictions—it’s our entire economy. Travel is the fundamental artery of trade and commerce for our country—and that artery is beginning to clog as a result of both perceived and actual security hurdles for travelers.” He added: “The world must hear that we are closed to terror, but open for business.”
The United States banned laptops as carry-ons in March on flights originating from 10 airports in eight mostly Middle Eastern countries. Britain followed with similar restrictions.
Homeland security officials said those 10 airports can once again allow laptops onto passenger cabins if they satisfy the new security requirements. These measures include increased explosive trace detection and vetting of airport staff as well as additional detection dogs, according to Reuters.
Government authorities are reacting to Intelligence reports indicating terrorist efforts were underway to foil airport security scanners by disguising explosive devices as lithium laptop batteries.
“Inaction is not an option,” Kelly said, saying he believes airlines will comply with the new screening. But he warned the measures are not the last step to tighten security.