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.
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.