For a few weeks now there have been rumors of a new electronics ban being introduced on flights from Europe to the US. This new restriction would apparently mirror the policy that has been in place for flights from the Middle East to the US since late March.
Earlier this week reputable sources started saying that the electronics ban would be announced for flights from Europe to the US this week, and on Wednesday European security officials further clarified that the White House would be announcing such a ban on Thursday.
Heck, yesterday Delta erroneously put out signs at Cincinnati Airport suggesting that the new restrictions were in place effective immediately. Even though Delta claimed this was an error, clearly that information came from somewhere.
— JT Genter (@JTGenter) May 12, 2017
So, it’s now the weekend and there’s still not an announcement, so what exactly is going on? Is the electronics ban off the table, being reconsidered, or what?
Why the electronics ban may be delayed
If I’m reading into the situation correctly, I think what’s happening here is that the government is realizing that unilaterally imposing this restriction with no advance notice or consultation of other governments or airlines won’t end well for them. I suspect they had the intention of implementing this as of May 12 (which would explain why Delta printed signs to that effect), but that they got pushback from the major US airlines, foreign governments, etc.
When they imposed this restriction on flights from the Middle East, it exclusively impacted foreign carriers, and it’s not like the current administration has an issue with putting policies in place that impact people traveling from that region.
So it sure seems like the US had the intention of instituting this without much further thought, but the pushback is causing them to at least consult airlines and other countries on the implementation.
Per the Associated Press:
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security organized a telephone conference with “key European partners” — France, Britain, Germany, Spain and Italy. It will be a ministerial level call. The French attendee is expected to be Louis Gautier, secretary general for defense and national security.
A French official with direct knowledge about Friday’s meeting said France planned to push back against the measure, saying there was no information to suggest a significant increase in the terror threat. Friday marks the final working day of the current French administration. The official spoke only on condition of anonymity to discuss the plan.
Two airline officials who were briefed on the discussions said Homeland Security gave no timetable for an announcement, but they were resigned to its inevitability. They spoke only on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the meeting publicly.
Is the expanded electronics ban inevitable?
It sure looks like it, unfortunately. If they’re going to put this into place, I at least hope they think long and hard about the implementation. They did a horrible job implementing the new policy for flights originating in the Middle East, and this is on a whole different level, given the amount of traffic from Europe to the US.
There are so many questions about the logic of such a ban. On one hand I hope that foreign governments and airlines can talk some sense into the current administration. On the other hand, I suspect they’ve made up their mind, and the only thing on the table is exactly which electronics will be banned, how soon it’s being implemented, exactly which flights are impacted, etc.
Even if you’re someone who 100% agrees with the implementation of this and values security
theater above all else, I’m sure you’ll at least agree with some of the questions I have:
- Isn’t there a way that laptops and other electronics could be swabbed for explosives residue and tested before the flight, rather than banning them from the cabin entirely? Many airports already require you to power up electronics and even swab them.
- Isn’t there an increased risk of a fire in a cargo hold from having all the electronics there, without an easy way to access them?
- Why doesn’t the electronics ban include flights from the US? Forget hidden explosives — in tests the TSA has missed over 95% of weapons and explosives that were brought through the checkpoint? Shouldn’t fixing the ineffective TSA be our first priority?
- Why only limit this to flights from Europe and the Middle East, and not include flights from Latin America, etc.?
It’s not often I say this, but I think Qatar Airways’ Akbar Al Baker is spot on:
Here’s to hoping this policy is reconsidered… unfortunately I’m not optimistic.