Any expansion to the ban on laptops and other large electronic devices in airline cabins could be “off the table” for now…or it could be set to expand worldwide. Multiple reports on a Wednesday meeting between U.S. Department of Homeland Security and European Union (EU) officials conflict on what’s next for the controversial policy. Here are three different “takes”:
1. The Ban Is “Off the Table” for Now
According to the Associated Press via CNBC, an official who followed the talks said that the expanded ban was “off the table” for now. The official spoke with the AP on the condition of anonymity in order to release the details of the sensitive negotiations.
The BBC also reported that U.S. and EU officials decided against an expanded ban. At the same time, officials cited in the BBC report said that “other measures were still being considered.”
Expanded Ban Coming in “Next Several Days or Weeks”
On the other hand, a senior Trump administration official told the New York Times that Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly could impose an expanded ban in the “next several days or weeks.”
Laptop Ban Could Expand Worldwide
Finally, a recent report in the Financial Times indicates the Trump administration is considering a worldwide expansion of the ban, although no decision had been made yet.
“We are considering extending the restriction that is in place in the Middle East and north Africa now, and the expansion of those restrictions could include Europe and other locations,” Department of Homeland Security spokesperson David Lapan told the Financial Times. “We’ve had ongoing discussions with our European colleagues but it is still something that Secretary Kelly is considering.”
According to the Financial Times report, a worldwide ban would reduce anger in Brussels that Europe would be singled out by an expanded ban, with one senior EU diplomat making the analogy, “In the army, when you have a kettle and you are making porridge, you cannot make it thicker in one corner of the kettle.”
What to make of the conflicting reports? According to a publicly released, joint statement from the European Commission and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, officials from the two organizations will meet again next week in Washington, DC, to “further assess shared risks and solutions for protecting airline passengers, whilst ensuring the smooth functioning of global air travel” – meaning talks regarding the larger issue of air travel security are still ongoing.
Another factor to consider is that the sources cited in the “off the table” and “next several days or weeks” reports were all anonymous. The Financial Times report on a worldwide extension had the only source of the conflicting takes available at press time willing to go on the record. Additionally, both the sources indicating that the ban would be extended in some way – either to all flights from Europe or worldwide – were associated with the United States. It was not clear in either the BBC or AP reports calling the ban “off the table” if those anonymous sources were associated with either the U.S. or EU.
In the meantime, travel agents can keep an eye on the list of 10 airports in the Middle East and North Africa currently affected by the ban here. For clients concerned about the safety of their electronic devices while they are traveling as checked baggage, we’ve compiled a list of quick travel insurance tips regarding the new electronics ban to share.