Decision to Extend Inflight Electronics Ban to Europe Flights Could Come As Soon As Wednesday

Two weeks ago I wrote that the US government was considering extending the ban on inflight electronics to flights coming from Europe, not just the Mideast.

The electronics ban is a silly policy that doesn’t promote security and the head of world airline association and standards setting body IATA has called for its end.

Extending the ban to Europe flights, though, would be one way to answer the criticism of the laptop ban that it targets only airports with flights operated by competitors of U.S. airlines.

And an announcement extending the ban to European flights to the U.S. could come as soon as Wednesday.

US officials are “weighing the advantages of expanding the ban” against the “possible disruptions it will cause.”

The funny thing here of course is that the disruptions aren’t possible, they’re certain and obvious. While the advantages really accrue to the terrorists we’re surrendering to by doing this. Expect more laptops to be stolen, and fewer people to travel not just because of the inconvenience and lost productivity but because of the sensitive information that giving up physical control of a laptop potentially exposes.

Playing whack-a-mole with threats just pushes determined terrorists to focus on other airports or other means to accomplish their goals. Pushing lithium ion batteries into cargo creates a fire risk that’s harder to contain.

So far the US government officially offers only this non-statement:

The Transportation Security Administration told CBS News in a statement, “We have not made any decisions on expanding the electronics ban; however, we are continuously assessing security directives based on intelligence and will make changes when necessary to keep travelers safe.”

There will be another meeting on the issue with US airlines “later this week” and an announcement is not expected “before Wednesday.”

If this comes to pass I expect to take all my international trips via Canada.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I emailed United’s CEO as a 1K expressing my concern, and how we would cancel our EU trips if this happens. I suggest all other frequent fliers do the same to their respective CEOs.

  2. You sound like the hollywood liberals that claimed they would move to Canada if Trump eon- i guarantee you will not fly via Canada, it sucks, but suck it up like we all may have to, dont threaten to take your biz to canada, cause we all know thats a BS emotional statememt, whaaaaa!

  3. I simply will no longer be visiting the US. If my laptop isn’t in the cabin, neither am I. And that’s a problem for a nation I consider my second home country! Assuming they let me back again, of course 😮

  4. So that explains the crazy cheap sales to Europe at the moment. $400 to Rome from SFO on United.

  5. @joelfreak – This is government. United’s CEO won’t be able to do anything about it. Save your letter to him and just bring a book on the plane. Or sleep. Or talk to the person next to you.

  6. I dunno, I am starting to think it is a real and specific concern they have and its probably not right to call it silly anymore given that we are not privy. They may have found jamming devices or something that interferes with flight electronics but needs to operated by the user and has to be larger than a phone to accommodate a power source big enough to create an electromagnetic field or something.

  7. They also may not be informing folks like the TSA or world airline association on exactly what they are concerned about so they don’t tip off the enemy that they are onto their plans. Which may give them time to come up with a better way to counter the specific threat they are looking at.

  8. They have no credibility in my eyes, the war on liquids proves that. It is all about creating a distraction and whipping people into panic

  9. More booty for crooked baggage handlers; but on these items, loss won’t be covered by the airline.

  10. @tom, but wasn’t the liquids restriction in direct response to those dudes they arrested bringing hydrogen peroxide in soda bottles to make an IED on board? It’s been 10 years of the liquids rule and we haven’t heard of another attempt like that since…so, I’m not sure you can call that proof they have no credibility.

  11. If this ban also applies to cameras that will kill vacation travel between Europe and the US. No one is going to risk putting an expensive camera into chechecked bags only to be damaged or stolen.

    If the airlines won’t be responsible for damage or theft to electronics who will? What recourse will we have? Will we all have to file against our homeowners I surance? Or would this be covered by the travel I surance associated with credit cards?

  12. @tim, With all due respect, this isn’t about boredom. This isn’t something reading a book or chatting up your seat mate will solve. Many must use laptops for work and, if we must check them, those laptops are at high risk (of being stolen or of data being compromised). And airlines will not insure laptops in checked bag. In many cases, employers will not allow laptops to be checked.

    What’s a work traveler to do under these constraints except not fly affect airports to USA?

  13. @Rob

    The fact that the shoes and liquids ban still exists 10 years later in no way lends credibility to the threat. It lends credibility to Tom’s point about creating an atmosphere of fear.

  14. The fact that less hysteria prone governments like Canada, the EU nations, Japan and Australia have not imposed similar bans lends credence to the idea it is nonsense. What would stop a terrorist from simply flying to the U.S., buying the electronic device here, rigging it up in whatever way the TSA imagines it could be done, and blowing up a domestic flight? How does banning electronics on flights from certain destinations to the U.S. accomplish anything?

  15. +100 to what Dave just said- I don’t see how the US can ban laptops on international flights without banning laptops on domestic flights as well. There’s absolutely no proof that US security is any better (and lots of datapoints that it’s worse) than international screening.

  16. For vacation I use an enpensive camera. Will the airlines accept responsibility for baggage loss and or theft? I doubt it so I would guess that I will not vacation outside the USA and cancel my fall trip? Why did I pay for GOES if I can not be trusted with a damn camera. There is mor than business people on planes!!

  17. The magnitude would have been 100x the initial ban… gosh… how many flights are there from Europe to the US in a day? I can’t imagine how this could pass any sensible cost-and-benefit analysis. Or maybe they just are paranoid enough and don’t care at all?

  18. Has the “Thought Leader” provided his ideas to enhance security or just complained about existing/ contemplated policies?

  19. No more travel to or through the US then.

    Most people seem not to understand that the problem is fear of damage/lost/stolen electronics, not the inconvenience of not having them on board. Who will pay for the 10.000 euros of photo equipment I carry with me if it’s gone? Not the airline for sure….and there’s no insurance that will cover that.

    And I’m still waiting for someone to explain me why batteries that were strictly forbidden in checked bags before, are now required to be there. So they are not dangerous anymore? Are planes different now? Ridiculous.

  20. @James K
    No, the fact that we haven’t had another liquid or shoe bomb attempt in 10 years is evidence the security measures work to some extent enough to discourage the attempts. That’s what I’m saying.

  21. Gary since u know so much, why not get hired as a terrorist consultant. Everybodys an expert but has little to no intel.

  22. This is exactly the sort of crap I used to do as a marketing executive. How do we get the punters to PERCIEVE they’re getting a value?

    In this case, we’ve got an administration creating a threat they can protect us from. Cue warm feeling for glorious leader.

  23. Back in the day people shipped firearms as checked baggage, it was,something of a hassle, but it worked. You had to get there early and check them in, with ammo separated. The you had to go to special handling at arrival and sign for your items. Hassle to be sure and it probably cut down on the numbers of fire arms being shipped. Ailines ship all sorts of things, biological samples, planys, dogs and cats. I guess if I really need my computer it is worth the hassle. This ban if put in place could start up a healthy rental buisiness

  24. It’s interesting how many people have already decided not to travel to the US, even though this is only a rumor so far and no details have been announced.

  25. I am hoping it does not come to this. I fly mostly for business, and a lot internationally. Before wifi on board, I could survive without my laptop for a number of hours (I work mostly online), and for shorter flights would just run out paper copies I could read any time anyway. Even today, I could get by reading emails on my phone via inflight wifi to some extent. But checking a laptop really concerns me. I usually need it much more when I get there than on the plane. If the luggage gets lost for more than a day (which happens frequently on international connections) or gets stolen on the way to a business meeting, I am sunk. I’m concerned about data security, though I think there may be ways to make it secure in that regard. I wonder if the ban might allow some size of phablet that I might be able to use as a substitute laptop for most purposes. I also wonder if one of the overnight mail services might go after the market of mailing of laptops ahead of time.

  26. rrgg, that’s no surprise. Many people NEED their laptops and cameras, and international trips are often planned well in advance. Who wants to buy a ticket that suddenly cannot be used because of an electronics ban that’s abruptly put into place after the ticket was purchased?

    I don’t travel with a laptop, but like several other posters I do travel with expensive camera equipment. And I’ve been postponing any serious planning for my 2018 vacations to see how this nonsense will sort out, precisely because I don’t want to discover that a planned trip will be too much of a hassle to actually carry out courtesy of this electronics ban. (I’d like to travel to Africa, but that’s going to be a tough trip to manage if the only option for my return travel that doesn’t place my camera equipment at risk returning via Asia.)

  27. @Gary —> From a security point-of-view, this is more like closing a loophole than a new policy. Fly from “x” airport in the Middle East nonstop to the States, and you can’t fly with your electronics, but fly from the same airport on the same airline with a stop first in EU, and you’re fine because it’s not a nonstop??? Stupid.

    From a passenger perspective, it’s stupid — airlines are ripping out their IFEs and streaming content to passenger’s devices . . . only you’re not allowed to have you device with you???

    And then there’s the whole lithium-ion battery issue . . .

  28. Wow.

    How long would it take for Walt Disney World in Orlando to go bust if all the British and European visitors switch to EuroDisney instead?

    How is the state of Florida supposed to survive this?

  29. These are Trump’s ploy to distract people’s attention of the “real” issue which is that he is a failure as a President, as an Administrator, as a Commander-in-chief, as a husband, as a father and above all as human being! The Congress/Senate is no better either..
    But he is good as being a puppet for the dictators of the world (i.e. Putin).

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