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US, EU in urgent talks on expanding laptop ban on flights

15 May 2017

In the United States could extend the ban on the transportation of electronics by passengers in carry-on baggage on flights from Europe.

Anna-Kaisa Itkonen, a spokeswoman for the European Commission, said that European officials had sent a letter on Tuesday to their American counterparts.

Chief among the concerns are whether any new threat prompted the proposal and the relative safety of keeping in the cargo area a large number of electronics with lithium batteries, which have been known to catch fire.

Earlier this week, the International Air Transport Association held a separate meeting in Washington with airports and members of the U.S. Transportation Security Administration, two aviation industry sources said.

A broader ban would significantly affect USA and European carriers, which are concerned about the logistical challenges of checking large numbers of devices.

The current ban applies to 10 airports in eight majority-Muslim countries: Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, and applies to about 50 flights a day, NPR's Greg Myre reported.

In the United States, a Capitol Hill source and a Homeland Security source told CNN on Thursday that it was increasingly likely the ban would be expanded soon. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the plan, said the primary questions revolved around when and how - not whether - the ban would be imposed.

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Some airline officials say they would need to hire more staff to impose additional restrictions, and they are anxious about how much advance notice they would have.

The UK and the U.S. have banned laptops and tablet computers from the passenger compartment of flights from several Middle East and North African nations.

Roughly 40% of overseas travelers to the US come from Europe, crossing the Atlantic on more than 350 flights a day. For one, they don't believe it's any safer for electronic items to be in checked luggage. Kelly is also scheduled to meet President Donald Trump on Friday but a DHS official said the meeting is about a different topic.

The Department of Homeland Security held a conference call with "key European partners" on Friday, over reports that the U.S.is considering expanding the laptop ban to all 60 European airports with direct-U.S. flights.

The U.S. said it was because of intelligence suggesting terrorists could hide explosives in those larger devices.

Homeland Security said in a statement Wednesday that the restriction was under consideration.

The DHS already confirmed that it was considering expanding restrictions on laptops and similar electronic devices in aircraft cabins, to include flights from Europe and other parts of the world.