Update: No Expanded Laptop Ban Yet, But Policy Still “On the Table”

Laptop in use by a woman on plane
Photo by leungchopan/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

While United States security officials are holding off on imposing an expanded laptop ban for now, reports indicate the policy is still “on the table.”

Politico reports that a European Commission official said that both the United States and European Union had agreed to “intensify technical talks and try to find a common solution” following a conference call.

Following the call, however, a spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security told The Hill that an expanded ban is still “on the table.”

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"While a much-discussed expansion of the ban on large electronic devices in the cabin on flights to the United States was not announced today, the Secretary made it clear that an expansion is still on the table," the spokesperson told The Hill.

The update comes as security experts continue to debate the safety impact of an expanded laptop ban. When the ban was initially announced, security officials said that it was motivated by fears that terrorists could manually detonate explosives hidden in large electronic devices after taking them aboard in carry-on luggage. At the same time, other experts have warned that a ban could lead passengers to check more lithium ion-powered electronic devices in the airplane’s cargo hold, potentially posing a fire risk.

According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) statistics cited by Bloomberg, there have been 160 incidents involving lithium ion batteries in cargo holds since 1991, including two crashes in 2010 and 2011.  At the same time, the FAA told Bloomberg that transporting the batteries in bulk creates a different scenario than shipping electronics in checked luggage, and that the agency is in the planning stages for additional tests on the potential danger of a laptop ban.

A JetBlue flight earlier this week provided an example of the risks posed by lithium batteries when a passenger’s laptop caught fire, forcing the plane to be diverted. The laptop was in the passenger’s carry-on luggage, and crew was able to put out the fire before the plane landed.

The current ban currently applies to 10 airports in the Middle East and North Africa. Travel agents with clients that might be affected by the ban can keep an eye on the current list of airports and airlines affected 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.

Stay tuned to www.travelagentcentral.com for further updates to this developing story.

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