The United States has unveiled tough new measures to enhance security on flights entering the country, but has held off extending a ban on laptops in the cabin.
In March of this year, the US banned laptops in the cabin of flights to and from eight mostly Muslim nations, fearing that explosive devices could be concealed in them. However, Homeland Security officials in the US have now said that the airports included in the original laptop ban could have it lifted if they complied with these new regulations.
The new measures, announced yesterday, include enhanced overall passenger screening, heightened screening of personal electronic devices, increased security protocols around aircraft and in passenger areas, and expanded canine screening on flights leaving from 105 countries.
Airlines have 120 days to comply, or could face a ban on carrying all passenger electronics. They could even be denied the right to fly into the US.
Homeland Security Secretary, John Kelly, detailed the new measures on Wednesday, saying, “Make no mistake, our enemies are constantly working to find new methods for disguising explosives, recruiting insiders, and hijacking aircraft. We cannot play international whack-a-mole with each new threat. Instead, we must put in place new measures across the board to keep the travelling public safe and make it harder for terrorists to succeed.”
The measures are vague in terms of operational application, but will cover 280 airports and 180 airlines, affecting an average of 2,100 flights a day, carrying 325,000 passengers.
Kelly had raised fears of a wider electronics ban late last month when he told Fox News that he was still considering it.
Devices larger than a smartphone are currently not allowed in the cabins of direct US-bound flights from Turkey, Morocco, Jordan, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
The UK issued similar rules for flights from six countries.
Air travel safety experts have warned there is a greater risk of lithium battery fires going unchecked if large electronic items are stored in the hold.