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.
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…