The US government is expected to announce on Thursday that it has banned laptops on all flights from Europe to the United States.
The move to ban the devices was revealed by European security officials, according to The Daily Beast.
In addition to the ban on laptops, the Trump administration is also reviewing how to ensure lithium batteries stored in luggage holds do not explode in midair, officials briefed on the matter said on Wednesday.
In a statement, the Department of Homeland Security, which is expected to announce the ban, told the Daily Beast: ‘No final decisions have been made on expanding the restriction on large electronic devices in aircraft cabins; however, it is under consideration.
‘DHS continues to evaluate the threat environment and will make changes when necessary to keep air travelers safe.’
Any expansion of the ban could impact US carriers such as United Airlines, Delta Air Lines Inc and American Airlines Group.
In March, the US announced laptop restrictions on flights originating from 10 airports including in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey because of fears that a concealed bomb could be installed in electronic devices taken onto aircraft.
Britain quickly followed suit with restrictions on a slightly different set of routes.
One European official acknowledged that the expanded ban could affect flights to the United States from Britain.
DHS spokesman Dave Lapan said Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly ‘hasn’t made a decision but we continue to evaluate the threat environment and have engaged in discussions with airline representatives and other stakeholders about the threat.’
Kelly will give a classified briefing on Thursday to senators about domestic threats and airline issues are expected to be discussed, a congressional aide briefed on the matter said.
Homeland Security chief John Kelly
The US laptop ban has affected direct flights to the United States by Royal Jordanian Airlines, Egypt Air, Turkish Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Kuwait Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Qatar Airways, Emirates and Etihad Airways.
One issue under discussion is how to ensure that lithium batteries in any large collection of devices stored in airplane holds do not explode in midair, officials told Reuters.
European regulators have warned placing what could be potentially hundreds of devices in the hold on long-haul flights could compromise safety by increasing the risk of fire from poorly deactivated lithium-ion batteries.
The Federal Aviation Administration documented 33 incidents last year in which personal electronic devices carried into cabins by passengers caused fire emergencies during flights, the Daily Beast reported.
Of these documented incidents, three were were caused by laptops and two were caused by tablets.
Two of the more serious incidents involved Delta Airlines flights.
On January 15, 2016, a fire erupted in a bag stored in the overhead bin on a flight from Minneapolis to Atlanta moments before landing.
The smoke in the cabin became so thick that passengers needed to open the emergency exits over the wings just to get air to flow inside.
Airport staff even helped some passenger deplane directly from the wings.
A subsequent investigation revealed that the fires were caused by two laptops.
A fire also ignited during a December 3, 2016 flight from Honolulu to Atlanta.
Airline staff needed three halon extinguishers and two water extinguishers to put out the fire, which also originated in a laptop computer.
On Tuesday, Reuters reported that a United Nations agency has begun an effort to craft global guidance for the use of laptops and other portable electronics in passenger aircraft cabins after the bans upset airline passengers and Middle Eastern carriers.
The International Civil Aviation Organization met on Tuesday to debate the issue after the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and other countries complained their airlines had been unduly penalized by the decision, three sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.
Airports and airlines in Europe have already been working on plans for a possible extension of the ban since the US announced the first restrictions on larger electronic devices in the cabin, according to several industry sources.
Issues that need to be resolved include how best to inform passengers of any new restrictions to keep disruption at airports to a minimum.
On the operational side, measures such as stopping online check-in for US bound flights or ensuring US flights depart from a dedicated part of terminals are among ideas being mulled, although no decisions have yet been taken.
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