Laptop Ban Update

By on Jul 1, 2017 in Technology

The Department of Homeland Security releases new air travel security regulations, but there’s no neeshutterstock_293116979d to leave your laptop at home…yet.

Responding to pressure from US airlines fearing adverse economic impacts as a result of a widened ban on in-flight electronics, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) decided not to extend its laptop ban beyond airports already included in the electronics prohibition.  European airlines were especially vocal about their opposition. Alexandre de Juniac, director general, and chief executive of the group, which represents 265 airlines, wrote in a letter to Kelly and Violeta Bulc, the E.U.’s top transportation official that expanding the ban could cost $1.1 billion a year in lost productivity, travel time and “passenger well-being.”

While those fears have been put to rest, for now, foreign and domestic airports and airlines will nevertheless face stricter security requirements moving forward as part of the DHS plan to anticipate threats before they become a reality.

“The United States and the global aviation community face an adaptive and agile enemy,” DHS said in a statement. “Terrorist groups continue to target passenger aircraft, and we have seen a ‘spider web’ of threats to commercial aviation as terrorist pursue new attack methods.”

Stay of Execution

Currently, flights originating from eight countries – Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates – must relegate any electronic bigger than a cell phone to the cargo hold. Airlines affected by the electronics restriction saw passenger numbers drop dramatically, prompting airlines from other countries to vigorously lobby against extending the ban. Ultimately, the DHS dodged the issue, preferring instead to focus on upgrading security on the ground.

While European airlines greeted the DHS announcement with studied relief, de Juniac remained cautious about the financial ramifications of the new safety practices.

“Keeping our passengers and crew safe and secure is our top priority,” said de Juniac. “Today’s actions raise the bar on security. The aggressive implementation timeline will, however, be challenging. Meeting it will require a continued team effort of government and industry stakeholders. In particular, airlines and airports will need to be supported by host states during the phase-in of the new requirements.”

Stringent Security

Though laptop-toting passengers will be able to keep their electronics in the cabin, the DHS did announce stricter security measures for commercial airline flights originating at 208 airports outside the US. The enhanced protocols include “heightened screening” of passengers and electronic devices and deploying addition tactics including advanced technology and canine screen. While there are many ways to keep business-related devices, and their content, safe while traveling, the increased security measures will be burdensome on passengers as well as airlines. Nevertheless, DHS believes the new standards will help foster more stringent security across the globe.

“The good news is we found a way to raise the bar worldwide, but at the same time not inconvenience the traveling public,” Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly announced during an appearance at a security conference at the Center for New American Security.

Raising the Bar

The DHS hopes the stricter procedures will force foreign airports to “raise the bar” on airport security. In addition. The DHS suggests those restrictions could be lifted for the eight countries currently under the laptop band if the affected airports change their current security measure to conform to the new DHS standard.

DHS officials indicated to the Washington Post that the countries operating under the current ban have already indicated they plan to adhere to the new rules. “All of those countries had expressed an eagerness to comply so that those restrictions could be lifted.”

“We are standing ready to go in and inspect how they adhere to the new security restrictions,” the official continued. “It is up to the carriers how quickly they want to move.”

Setting the Pace

In the meantime, the DHS has deployed advanced technology to help with screenings at domestic airports. At McCarran International Airport in Phoenix, for example, a new pilot is underway involving medical grade CT scanners capable of detecting suspicious substances and flag questionable luggage for more extensive review by airport security staff. Unfortunately, deployment of the advanced scanners will be slow, due in part to the equipment’s cost, size and power demand.

“It is time that we raise the global baseline of aviation security,” said Kelly. “We cannot play international whack-a-mole with each new threat.”