29 Jun 2017

US tightens aviation screening to avoid laptop ban

1:04 pm on 29 June 2017

The US government is rolling out new aviation security measures for all international flights arriving in the country, but not an expansion of its limited laptop ban.

The move will affect the approximately 2000 commercial flights arriving daily in the United States from 280 airports in 105 countries.

A sign directs travellers to a security checkpoint staffed by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) workers at O'Hare Airport in Chicago, Illinois in June 2015.

Photo: AFP

Officials are requiring enhanced screening of personal electronic devices and passengers, and increased explosive screening.

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said airlines that failed to satisfy new security requirements could still face future in-cabin electronics restrictions.

US Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, June 2017

John Kelly: "Inaction is not an option." Photo: AFP

Officials said the measures were to prevent an expansion of the in-cabin ban on laptops and other large electronic devices affecting eight countries.

Air New Zealand said it was a good outcome for travellers, stopping short of expanding the ban.

The airline said it was well positioned to meet the new measures.

The decision not to impose new laptop restrictions is a boost to US airlines, which have worried that an expansion of the ban to Europe or other locations could cause significant logistical problems and deter some travel.

Since laptops are widely used in flight by business class passengers - who pay double or more than the average ticket price - the airline industry had feared expanding the ban could cut into revenue.

The United States imposed restrictions on laptops in March on flights originating at 10 airports in eight countries, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and Turkey. They came amid fears that a concealed bomb could be installed in electronic devices taken aboard aircraft. Britain quickly followed suit with a similar set of restrictions.

Homeland security officials said Wednesday that those 10 airports could get off the list if they met the new security requirements.

Starting from April, Mr Kelly had said it was "likely" the laptop ban would expand to other airports. He met with senior airline executives in May and Homeland Security officials have had repeated meetings with US airline executives.

European and US officials told Reuters that airlines have 21 days to put in place increased explosive screening and have 120 days to comply with other security measures, including enhanced screening of airline passengers.

- Reuters

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