The Electronics Ban May Soon Be Expanded To Flights From The UK To The US

In late March the US instituted a ban on electronics for nonstop flights from select countries to the US. For nonstop flights to the US from Amman, Abu Dhabi, Cairo, Casablanca, Dubai, Doha, Istanbul, Jeddah, Kuwait City, and Riyadh, electronic devices larger than phones aren’t allowed in the cabin, and need to be checked in the cargo hold.

Inflight-wifi

While I think we were all hoping that this measure would be temporary, every day it looks more and more like that won’t be the case. In early April, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly told a Senate committee that the current electronics ban may be extended to more airports and countries, as it’s based on a “real” threat.

We haven’t heard much more on this front in the past few weeks, though today the International Business Times is reporting that an extension of the electronics ban is apparently being considered for flights from the UK to the US. Per the story:

And now, in a further step, the paper — quoting several informed sources — claims that the US is considering including flights from the UK in the ban, although no final decision has been taken.

“As with everything from Trump’s America, there are conflicting reports about where, when and what,” a Whitehall insider stated.

A US official has said that while no announcement was expected soon, such a move was “not far off.”

The official confirmed to The Times that the UK was “on the list of countries being examined for extended restrictions.”

Again, I think it’s worth emphasizing that this isn’t confirmed, and based on how this is written, it looks like an extension of the ban would impact more countries than just the UK.

I don’t mean to dismiss any potential threat here, but the way the government is going about all of this is so mindless. Much like everyone else, I of course value safety above all else. I don’t for a second question that there’s a real threat that this ban is in response to. At the same time, like most rational people (and even IATA), I question the logic of the way the ban has been implemented:

  • If the US and UK are working off the same intelligence, why does the US have Qatar and the UAE on the list, while the UK doesn’t?
  • What’s the logic of only implementing this ban on nonstop flights to the US, and excluding flights like Emirates’ flights from Dubai to Athens to Newark, and Dubai to Milan to New York?
  • Is there not a practical way that electronics could be screened at the gate to see if they pose a threat to a flight?

In tests, the US Transportation Security Administration has missed about 95% of weapons that were brought through the checkpoint. Shouldn’t fixing that be our top priority? I don’t mean to be crass, but it is by the grace of some higher power that there hasn’t been an attack on a US flight in a long time. While I believe our high level intelligence is good, the frontline security force in this country is doing an abysmal job.

When I write about these situations, some people leave comments along the lines of “how dare you question our security you unpatriotic pig, don’t you value your safety above all else?” If that’s the case, we should all be flying naked and without any bags on the plane, because it’s the only way we’ll be safe (and even then we aren’t safe, given that at least one, and probably two, of our last big air disasters were due to suicidal pilots, who had no weapon other than the plane itself).

It’ll be interesting to see what happens here…

Comments

  1. HI,

    I live in Lebanon… Regarding the ban on electronics from Beirut to London, i’d just like to point out that Power Banks are not allowed on the flight, not even in the checked in luggage

    I traveled last week on MEA & the agent at the business class check in desk took both power banks from us & asked us to collect them from the lost & found desk upon our return… when we got back & went there, we found out that they were “lost” (& not found)

  2. “Much like everyone else, I of course value safety above all else.”
    “Those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.” — Franklin.

    The path we have been going down since the Patriot Act (and really even before that too but I didn’t want to go too far back) was put in place is absurd and getting to 1984 levels of government control (OK, OK, it’s not that bad yet, but it’s getting there).

    This electronics ban, like the electronics ban to Islamic dominated countries, doesn’t make sense. It’s idiotic at best.

    Also, complete side note that maybe someone can answer for me. Whenever the plane’s overhead bins are full they put your luggage underneath but warn you to remove your lithium ion batteries and some other things (e-cigarettes, medication, etc.) as they can’t go in the cargo hold. But now they can because of the ban (since they tell you to check your iPads and other computers/tablets/e-readers/etc.? I don’t get that. Am I missing something obvious?

  3. All just theater, designed to deflect attention away this complete and utter shitshow of a presidency.

  4. WHen they came for the muslims, i didn’t speak up because i wasn’t a muslim

    when they came for the laptop users, no one was left to speak for me

  5. @J
    I think lithium batteries in the cargo hold are not a concern now because they are more concerned about a bomb. Kinda how you would be less concerned about taking your blood pressure medication if you were hanging from a cliff about to fall.

  6. @rob
    But if they didn’t want you to put the batteries in the cargo hold due to a fear of explosion/taking the plane down …… then what is the difference ….
    That argument makes no sense…

  7. Why not just remove the metal detectors and let people bring whatever they want on a plane? There’s not much a half asleep TSA agent can prevent better than a good ‘ol boy with a colt can.

  8. @J
    I think you’re forgetting that there are only 2 alternatives…it’s a matter of picking which one you are more concerned about. If we want to talk about making no sense, then why are the millions of ipads, phones, e-cigs and tablets manufactured every year dangerous in a passenger plane cargo hold, but not in the commercial cargo holds they fly in every day to get from the factories to the warehouses? Or when Fedex and UPS ship them from warehouses to the consumers?

  9. The thing I find incredibly stupid about all this is that they aren’t banning electronics on flights FROM the United States. The laws of physics – and, thus, explosions – apply independent of political boundaries. It’s very indicative of the minimal mental capability of the current administration that they’re only banning items on flights *to* the US.

    The TSA is pretty much worthless, as proven time and again. There are, and will continue to be, terrorists of all sorts – Muslim, Conservative Christian, White Supremacist – in the United States. This is the perfect recipe for either an independent actor or some group/cell to take full advantage of our arrogant-yet-simpleton minds. To think something could only happen by passengers boarding an aircraft headed for the US and not departing is foolish, shortsighted, and ultimately dangerous for everyone. I’m embarrassed for this country.

  10. @rob
    well, I am not worried about a bomb in general, but I am really not worried about if a bomb explodes in the cargo hold vs the cabin…
    But you’re right about the cargo holds on commercial flights, honestly didn’t even think about that. I wonder how that whole argument got started then.

  11. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Transferring potential explosives from the cabin to cargo does not make planes safer. Keeping them off the plane does.
    There isn’t a way to NOT make bombs that don’t require human intervention, indeed, the terrorists prefer that because there’s always the risk the suicidal bomber won’t blow him(her)self up at the last minute (happens more than most realize). My first semester college electronics I could design a crude detonator that would be hard to detect and set off any explosive device.
    You can’t make completely undetectable explosive devices with consumer electronics without leaving some evidence of tampering or masking the explosive components from current explosive detectors or dogs.
    Announcing to the world, and therefore ISIS, that you know of enemy plans basically means they simply change their plans and will target other airport. You never saw the Allies announcing they cracked German and Japanese codes and thus were aware of their communications, yet Trump felt it necessary to announce to ISIS that we have tapped into their intelligence operations. A government employee doing the same would have been fired, at the least.

    Those of us who haven’t completely surrendered to unquestioning acceptance and deference to authorities (we know who they are and they will be rehashing their same comments), it’s quite obvious this ban is a non-tariff trade barrier to the ME3. Now what remains to be seen, if this ban takes effect at UK airports, will US airlines also be subjected to the ban?

  12. @J
    I know, right? The whole thing is crazy. I think the “security theater” people are right. It’s just them trying to look like they are protecting us so when something happens we don’t get too mad at them.

  13. There are two groups of lithium batteries; those that are contained within devices like laptops, iPads, etc., and loose batteries. Batteries contained within a device are far less likely to cause a fire although the Samsung Note 7 and various e-cigarettes seriously challenge that theory. Loose lithium batteries are far more dangerous as they are more likely to contact each other and short-out, and are therefore banned in the cargo holds on all passenger aircraft. Loose lithium batteries may only be transported on board cargo only aircraft.

  14. Rob, if something does happen, it will probably be on a flight from Hong Kong or Singapore, just as examples, to the US. Or more likely from Paris or Berlin, to the US, we all know Europe has a growing ISIS presence. The ban “protects” a tiny handful of airports, yet leaves all the rest of the airports open to the same supposed danger that lead to the ban in the first place.

  15. If you trade your liberty for safety, you’ll end up with…
    …neither.

    At some point, don’t we all have to accept some risk? One can prove that somewhere in America an innocent little child will die on a freeway this year and that lowering the National speed limit would save that life, statistically. Speed limit 30 on all Interstates, innocent little child’s life saved. But, we don’t do that. There are people who sincerely believe that we should, because “one child’s life is one too many”. But we don’t lower the Interstate limit to 30, and the majority of us laugh at the people who think it’s appropriate.

    “Real threat”? What if the real goal of the evil-doers is to trick a government into crippling itself with absurd security paralysis? Taking off shoes in airports, body scanners, arguments over half-depleted tubes of toothpaste, discarded bottles of ordinary water… the “terrorists” must be laughing themselves into stupour.

    Just remember, my friends, nonstop to Toronto (no electronics ban), quick connection to your US home (no electronics ban). Oops, I should have whispered that, Now the terrorists know!

  16. One way I look at airline security issues is that if El Al (and/or TLV airport) does not see the need for a particular security measure, it probably isn’t necessary. They face a much more prevalent threat than we do in the US…

  17. Will them include US airlines on this ban as well? If yes, then the whole drama about targeting the M3 is gone.

  18. AdamR you are so right. Why not FROM US? 9/11 flights originated from the US

    Why isn’t other countries banning laptops from US. Oh yeah it’s called common sense.

  19. @Mark I see your point, but El Al and TLV screen their passengers rigorously. I for one would most likely reduce leisurely air travels if I must be present 6 hours before my scheduled departure for potential questionings, especially if I’ll be stuck at a lousy airport lounge after. Not that I’m a proponent of the electronics ban, as I’m sure there are other methods which can be put in place (i.e. extreme vetting of TSA employees before they’re burdened with the task to enforce border security), but again. I’d rather not be rigorously screened for nothing.

  20. @Emirates4Ever: “Announcing to the world, and therefore ISIS, that you know of enemy plans basically means they simply change their plans and will target other airport. ”

    Which is probably why the electronics ban is now apparently moving to UK-US flights, and will probably eventually encompass all flights to the US.

    Absurd.

  21. Isn’t it time other countries ban electronics on flights FROM the US? The TSA is doing about as good as Somalia at catching weapons, thats a credible security threat no?

  22. The terrorists will never get as many of us as the number of us who get each other with guns (in 2013: 73,505 nonfatal firearm injuries and 33,636 deaths). For every one American killed by an act of terror in the United States or abroad in 2014, more than 1,049 died because of guns. Let’s get real about what is likely to kill us.

  23. And plenty of people fly from the UK via Amsterdam , Paris, Frankfurt or Canada to the US therefore what is the difference ?

    The current US government seems intent on building all kinds of barriers in an attempt to stop people travelling there legally let alone illegally

    One has to pay for an ESTA , there is all the airport security to contend with etc. Flying via the USA to another international destination is a no go as the definition of transit doesn’t exist You need to clear immigration, collect bags etc

    The US administration wants to protect jobs and yet is going to decimate the tourist industry and business Consequently hotel occupancies will decline , revenues at theme parks may decline , visiting orchestras or theatre companies may avoid trips to the US due to all the barriers and jobs put at risk

    On a personal note I love visiting the USA and have been over 50 times. Since November 2016 I have had second thoughts

  24. If it’s truly a security issue, on top of banning them from flights departing from the US, why don’t they ban them on domestic flights within the US?

    Typically, a domestic flight will have less passengers than an international flight, but wouldn’t it strike more terror into the US population if the “event” (whatever that is) occurred on a domestic flight?

    The whole point of terrorism isn’t necessarily the body count (ramming a truck into a crowd in Nice, for example didn’t cause a huge death toll), but striking fear into us.

  25. Me and My family’s $7000 dollars to be spent on holiday may not be big to the US tour industry as an individual but I know that I’m certainly not the only one that has changed my plans to visit the US as we feel less and less welcomed daily and on the part of security you do know this is how ISIS sympathizers come across each other because they tell deluded individuals that US doesn’t want them because they are Muslim. Does your president really want to ban the UNITED KINGDOM of all countries??????????

  26. Fuuuuuuuuuudge… Of course this shiat comes down right before I do some USUK travel. What gets me is that anyone competent with electronics could easily re-wire a laptop to explode, triggered by altitude, timer, WiFi/Bluetooth, GPS, etc. Not my cup of tea, but I can’t imagine it taking an experienced person more than 15 minutes to come up with something plausible, and another 15 minutes making/programming it. Putting it in the cargo hold isn’t going to make a rat’s rectum of difference.

    I still love this story from Canada: http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/alberta-teen-caught-with-pipe-bomb-at-edmonton-airport-allowed-to-board-flight-not-arrested-until-return-to-canada-a-week-later

    The terrorists won 9/11. The US government (and sheeple) gave it to them. Metal detectors and x-ray machines have sprung up everywhere, showing photo ID everywhere, etc.

    I agree with everyone who says we need to take a serious look at RISK.
    Real quick definitions here:
    threat— something which might happen
    risk — probability that a threat might happen

    There are plenty of threats. Earthquakes, asteroids, dog bites, food poisoning, etc., are all threats. Risk is when you (should) rationally realize that you’re far more likely to be struck dead by lightning or a shark bite than be involved in a terrorist attack. Even at something as tragic as the Sandy Hook shooting, 95+% of the students walked right out the doors of the school building alive. That’s better odds than some of the hospital operating rooms in the USA. Speaking of which, if we’d taken all that’s been spent on “security” in both the public and private sector in the past 15 years, there’s easily enough to have FREE healthcare for everyone, which would easily save more lives.

  27. Food for thought with regard to the ridiculous electronics ban.

    Pan Am 103 in December 1988 over Lockerbie, Scotland. A bomb was placed in a Toshiba radio cassette “boombox” and originated on a flight out of Malta. It made its way onto Pan Am 103 in Frankfurt which then stopped in LHR for an equipment change before departing for JFK. Pan Am 103 Was less than an hour into that segment when the bomb detonated at altitude. The bomb was in the cargo hold and required absolutely no human intervention for detonation. It was set to a timer…and that was in 1988! Point being it was a crude bomb with a simple timer on a rather complex routing with maximum efficiency.

    We are so blatantly naive if we think terrorists haven’t evolved with the times as the rest of society. They were probably one step ahead of these bans trying to figure out a plan of attack for when the bans went in to place. They probably anticipated that they would! If we can think it, they already have. Trust!!

    Fact is it’s all distraction from the shit-show going on in the US political system right now. Is there really a credible threat that warrants it especially given that we know terrorists are more than capable of disguising a bomb, hiding it in luggage and taking down and aircraft. Even with today’s technology designed largely in response to the Pan Am 103 disaster to detect bombs in checked baggage and cargo, there are ALWAYS loopholes!!

  28. @Susan
    87 people were killed in the Nice attack with the truck. I would actually call that a huge death toll. In Berlin, a similar attack with a truck cost 12 lives, in the latest attack of this kind in Stockholm 4 people were killed.
    Maybe you mixed them up. I can’t blame you, it is simply too many. Too many religious idiots on this planet.

  29. “Mindless”. Now that was a good choice of words.

    The problem is that systems are designed to accomplish an objective but very quickly the objective is transformed into the the self-justification of the system. As an example, I recently had to get an apostille translated from French to French. The logic behind this stupidity was that a stamp from a court appointed translator was required and the content of the documents was irrelevant.

    In the case of an extension of the electronics ban, I can imagine some civil servant in some building somewhere making this decision on these grounds.

    1) It is better to be safe than sorry.
    2) Expanding the list is in itself proof that the list has value and the work in maintaining is justified.

    In the light of those reasons, the existence of a “real and verifiable” threat is almost irrelevant.

  30. @SFOFlyGuy I’ll go a step further and say it’s possible that the terrorists simply invented this plot knowing it would strike fear in the West and have everyone and that was it’s only purpose. I’m waiting for them to leave “intelligence” behind claiming they can smuggle explosives rectally thereby required full rectal searches of all passengers before boarding. In this climate, wouldn’t be surprised.

    Susan still makes a valid point, that is exactly the motive behind terrorists, to get us in such a state of fear we change our very way of life. It’s already happened.

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