Reuters and others are reporting that the Department of Homeland Security is contemplating new rules that will extend the laptop ban to all international flights arriving in and departing from the United States. This would be a drastic expansion of current restrictions that only apply to 10 countries in the Middle East and Africa. The comments were made in an interview by DHS Secretary John Kelly on Fox News.
The current laptop ban (and tablets, too — pretty much anything larger than a mobile phone) doesn’t affect any U.S. carriers. However, there was much greater alarm from the airline industry when previous rumors suggested that the ban could be extended to Europe. Government negotiators later backed down from that idea. This new proposal would be even more inconvenient for Americans and for visitors. Tourism has already started to fall since President Trump’s election and the administration’s other attempts to impose new security regulations on international travel.
Personally, I do not see this new proposal taking effect. First, the failure to extend the ban to Europe makes it seem less likely. Second, it would significantly hamper the U.S. airline industry, and in the past the Trump administration has seemed to respond this kind of criticism even if it didn’t manage to anticipate it in the first place.
Most of all, I place less weight on policy proposals that are revealed during Sunday morning talkshows. The broader scope of the interview was on keeping America safe following the Manchester bombing, and the comment was made only in response to the interviewer’s question. (You can see the rest of the section starting at 8:40 on this video.)
Interviewer: I want to do a lightning round. Quick questions, quick answers. Are you going to ban laptops from the cabin on all international flights, both into and out of the U.S.?
Kelly: I might. That’s a quick answer.
But if the Trump administration does believe there is a credible threat from bombs packed in electronic devices then the only real way to address that is with a global ban. Stopping travelers from bringing electronics on flights from the Middle East only means they stop in Europe first. If they can’t go to Europe then they’ll pass through Asia.
In the unlikely event that such a ban does take effect my strategy would be to shift all of my international travel through Canada. Seattle is only a short flight from Vancouver; those in New York and Chicago can easily reach Toronto. I admit that I don’t know how the electronics ban would affect pre-clearance facilities like those operated in Canadian airports. However, it seems easy enough to check my back for the short hop to Vancouver and then retrieve it and my laptop before I board my flight to London, Hong Kong, or wherever. If you’re starting your trip from Miami, Dallas, or Los Angeles, well… you might find it more challenging.