Laptop Ban is Off the Table, Provided the World Does Everything the Trump Administration Says

Two weeks ago I wrote that the U.S. was using the threat of an electronics ban to force countries around the world to adopt more U.S.-style security theater that wouldn’t make us safer. Now that plan is official.

There will be no expansion of the inflight electronics ban. Airports affected by the current laptop ban will be able to have the ban lifted, and other airports with flights to the U.S. can avoid having one imposed, if they meet a series of U.S. conditions.

European regulators made the case successfully that requiring lithium ion batteries to be checked into the cargo hold was far more dangerous than having electronic devices in the cabin. Lithium ion batteries have the occasional tendency to catch fire, and when that happens in the cabin fires can be put out. (This is why extra lithium ion batteries are generally banned from checked luggage.)

Instead the U.S. is going to require new security measures for airports where flights depart for the U.S.

  • Many of the measures will be ‘phased in over time’ putting the lie to the notion that there was an imminent threat underlying the March ban in the first place.

  • The ultimate goal will be to encourage greater establishment of immigration and customers preclearance facilities — the U.S. wants to stop people from coming to the U.S. before they get on planes, not when there in U.S. airports. Ironically, Abu Dhabi (which was subject to the original ban) already has a preclearance facility where the u.S. is directly overseeing security and even has eyes and ears in the preclearance premium lounge.

Here’s what the U.S. is going to require of airports:

to enhance “overall passenger screening,” conduct “heightened screening of personal electronic devices” (PEDs), increase “security protocols around aircraft and in passenger areas” and deploy advanced technology and expand canine screening

Put another way, we’re leveraging the right to fly to the U.S. to force adoption of U.S. security preferences including new technology that does not even exist today.

We can expect longer security lines at airports with flights to the U.S. as passengers have their electronics screened and go through other procedures outlined by the U.S. government — even though the lesson of the Brussels and Istanbul airport bombings is precisely that safety dictates getting passengers through security as quickly as possible. Long security lines are targets.

Our best hope is that in most airports these procedures will be applied to U.S. flights only, meaning as a secondary screening. That will enhance safety (the longer lines won’t make us less safe) and minimize inconvenience (for passengers not going to the U.S.) but will mean showing up earlier for U.S. flights as you go through standard screening and U.S. screening.

In Abu Dhabi where U.S. security procedures were already in place (but the laptop ban was implemented anyway) if you aren’t checked in two hours before a US-bound flight you aren’t permitted to fly.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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. The added security will be inside the airport after the initial screening. So it does not expose anyone to more risk in the main terminal. It may be like the impressive secondary security inside the Medellin Colombia airport which include a second complete body pat down,, physical examination of all carry on luggage, and the drug and bomb sniffing dogs at the gate, also sniffing the checked bags as they go up the conveyor to the hold, and finally walking the dogs in the cabin sniffing the passengers after all are seated. Medellin departures are the safest flights I have flown, but I have never flown El Al.

  2. Would you look at this – the all knowing Gary from View From The Left is playing political analyst again! That mean, mean crybaby Trump administration – this is all their fault! Misguided! Except for the sticky fact you leave out of your narrative that the US is not alone in adopting similar measures against in-cabin electronics. Whoops!

  3. US-style screenings? That would save us time at the airport. In the US I am used to keep all electronics in my bag, for example. But when I start my journey to the US here in Europe? It has been standard for a few years now that all electronics (not just devices but cables, chargers, etc as well) have to be removed from your bag and put in extra bins for screening.
    Though maybe that all means that European airports have to install two checkpoints? One where you have to remove everything from your bag to x-ray it separately (the “lax” way ;-)) and one where you keep everything in your bag to x-ray it “all at once” (the very strict US way).

    But I am glad when I am still allowed to bring my toothbrush, my tablet and my headphone on board.

  4. I get a great laugh nearly every day knowing Trump is so under your skin, Gary. You read a couple blogs and think you know more about general security and the threats that endanger that security than the people who study it for a living and are privy to information you could never dream of seeing . News flash – the “Trump Administration” isn’t the only body that adopted an electronics ban from the Middle East. Maybe your blog tag line should read “Thought Leader I’m Uneducated Liberalism” instead?

  5. Trump knows what he’s doing. He is the smartest, most popular president ever in the history of the universe, and the most handsome. He only hires the bestest people and does the greatest things. It’s totally unpresidented.

  6. Security and security theater for flights headed to the US is always more intrusive, time consuming, and redundant than flights within and between other regions already.

  7. ROFLMAO! Thanks, @Andy — best laugh I’ve had all week!

    /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

    @Dougie —> I haven’t seen that spelled out (that “The added security will be inside the airport after the initial screening”). Still, not sure how that doesn’t make the overall screening area any less of a target.

    /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

    @J.C. —> I would imagine the rat would.

    /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

    As I understand it, the initial impetus for the “laptop ban” was that people could make bombs fit inside of a laptop. Certainly that hasn’t changed — devices can be placed inside transition radios (anyone remember them?), and virtually anything else one could think of. But certainly the risk of Lithium ion batteries cashing fire in the hold would have posed a far more deadly, a more clear and present danger than a “laptop bomb.”

    Apropos of J.C.’s comment above, we need TSA agents trained to actually find their asses with both hands — uh, find things like bombs, guns, knives, etc., rather than finding loose cash and 20-pound lobsters . . .

  8. Excellent move – true American leadership at work. Something that the world has been sorely missing for the past 8 years.

  9. Most countries already have two screenings when coming to the US. In Panama, you have to go through two, one after ticketing and one before boarding. Even transiting has to go through the second. In Egypt, they had three. One at the entrance, one after the ticketing counter, and one at the gate. Egypt was pretty thorough too. They patted down one in 10 people. That was for both international and domestic flights.

  10. Agree with Gary 100%. In fact based on my limited experience (6 continents, 25+ countries), I would say the US demands are hypocritical because we have one of the worst security screening systems in the world. Hard to beat a 90% failure rate (Inspector General stats) and almost no random hand searches v. hand screening of checked bags at many overseas airports.

    Glad the Euros were able to stand tough notwithstanding the unsupported nonsense spouted by the Homeland Security Czar.

  11. 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).

  12. *FTroop: Does it hurt when you think?

    Run along like a good little twat and see your doctor. They have meds that can help with your Whiny Little Bitch Syndrome.

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