U.S. Laptop Ban Will Expand To Flights from Europe
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Hilary Stockton

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U.S. Laptop Ban Will Expand to Flights From Europe

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security will expand the ban on laptops as cabin baggage in all flights from Europe to the U.S., with the announcement expected tomorrow, Thursday, according to The Daily Beast. Back in March, the Department of Homeland Security banned laptops and tablets in carry-ons on flights to the U.S. from 10 Middle Eastern cities, including Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha and Istanbul (see U.S. Bans Laptops as Carry-ons for Flights from Dubai and Middle East to U.S.).

The reason for the original ban, as well as its extension to flights from Europe to the U.S., is that ever since the February 2, 2016 explosion in a Somalia plane, soon after takeoff from Mogadishu. The bomb is suspected to have been concealed in a laptop handed by an airport worker to the terrorist after clearing security. Had the plane been at higher altitude, the plane's pilot said, the explosion could have caused the jet to crash.

But with so many laptops and tablets being forced to be checked in the hold, there could be an increased risk of fire emergencies, caused by lithium ion batteries in these electronic devices. The FAA cited 33 incidents of passengers' electronic devices causing fire emergencies during flights, although there could well be others as the FAA emphasized that the 33 cases were only ones the agency was aware of.

Just as worrisome is that tests conducted by the FAA's Fire Safety Branch has found that the automatic fire suppression systems in aircraft cargo holds, which use halon gas, are ineffective at putting out a fire triggered by a lithium-ion battery that ignites nearby lithium-ion batteries, thereby creating a "thermal runway."

So even if the laptop ban's intent is to foil a terrorist group's ability to blow up a plane using an explosive concealed in a laptop, there's now the specter of a greater fire risk to the plane, by concentrating so many lithium ion batteries in the cargo hold.

It remains to be seen whether the expanded laptop ban on flights from Europe to the U.S. will include tablets, and what European airlines will do to assist passengers, especially given that there's already weaker demand from Europe to the U.S. on some leisure routes, given the strong U.S. dollar and political considerations that are deterring some visitors.

Will an expanded laptop ban on flights from the Europe to the U.S. affect any of your upcoming travel?

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