US laptop ban on European flights to be discussed at ‘high-level’ in Brussels

Fears of summer travel chaos as US authorities consider extending the cabin restriction

The US cabin restriction on laptops is already applicable to flights originating from 10 airports including in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

A proposed Trump administration ban on passengers from Europe taking laptops and tablets into cabins on US-bound flights will be discussed at a "high-level" meeting in Brussels on Wednesday, amid concerns about a summer of travel chaos.

The US authorities are considering extending the cabin restriction, which is already applicable to flights originating from 10 airports including in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, because of alleged concerns that bombs could be hidden in the devices.

The airline industry fears the extended security measure will mean longer security lines, heightened delays and confusion at boarding gates during the busy summer period. Last year, 30 million people flew to the US from Europe.

According to the airports association ACI Europe, there are 3,257 flights a week scheduled to fly to the US from airports in 28 European Union countries this summer.


The Trump administration imposed the initial ban in March and Britain swiftly followed, imposing restrictions on a slightly different set of routes.

Emergency talks

A meeting between EU and US officials about the issue was organised during emergency talks last Friday via a conference call between the US secretary of state for homeland security, John Kelly, EU ministers and European Commission officials.

On Monday, the commission's chief spokesman, Margaritis Schinas, said the EU would stress the need for co-operation and joint measures during the talks, although he was unable to confirm that Mr Kelly would be attending.

Mr Schinas said the commission shared the US’s safety concerns, although EU officials have previously called on Washington to be more open in sharing security information that would justify enlarging the scope of the restriction.

He said the political and technical talks would “jointly assess any new threats and work towards a common approach to address them”.

A ban would affect major European carriers, such as Lufthansa, British Airways and Air France-KLM, but would probably also apply to US airlines that fly from European airports.

Expanding the ban

Officials in the US homeland security department met last Thursday with executives from major US airlines to discuss expanding the ban to flights arriving from Europe.

An official statement issued afterwards said: “We are continually evaluating threats and if a determination is made that a change to our layers of seen and unseen aviation security measures should be made, as we have done in the past, we will work closely with our private sector and public sector partners to ultimately do what is best for the safety of the travelling public.”

As well as concerns about the logistical difficulties of the ban, European regulators have warned that putting hundreds of devices in the holds on long-haul flights could compromise safety by increasing the risk of fire from their lithium-ion batteries.

The European Aviation Safety Agency advises that large electronic items "should preferably be carried in the passenger cabin, on the person or in the carry-on baggage".

– (Guardian service)