Instead of instituting a widespread laptop ban on every US-inbound flight, the Trump administration will require nearly 200 airlines (and implicitly almost 300 airports) around the world to meet new heightened security protocols, or be barred from entry.
As The Hill reports, the U.S. is rolling out new aviation security measures for all international flights coming into the country instead of imposing a laptop ban, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced Wednesday.
Passengers on U.S.-bound flights can expect to go through a more “extensive screening process” beginning as soon as this summer in some areas, according to senior officials. The enhanced procedures will impact 105 countries, 180 airlines and an average of 2,000 daily flights.
“It is time that we raise the global baseline of aviation security. We cannot play international whack-a-mole with each new threat,” DHS Secretary John Kelly said during a security conference on Wednesday.
“Instead, we must put in place new measures across the board to keep the traveling public safe and make it harder for terrorists to succeed.”
The administration's announcement comes after weeks of negotiations between the U.S. and Europe over whether to restrict large electronics on all U.S.-bound flights — a policy that currently only applies to 10 overseas airports.
The U.S. does not have jurisdiction over foreign airports, but has authority over airlines that have direct flights into the country.
The new measures include additional sniffer dogs, improved “next-generation” technology, more intensive screening, more vetting and a host of “unseen” efforts targeting passenger areas and around aircraft.
“Carriers will be given specific direction on what they need to institute,” said an official, who described the actions as “raising the bar globally” but said it was unlikely the measures would prove “unduly disruptive”.
The administration imposed a laptop ban earlier this year on U.S.-bound flights from 10 airports in the Middle East and Africa, which the DHS said was necessary because terrorists have been pursuing innovative methods to smuggle bombs into commercial flights.
The electronics restrictions at those airports can be lifted, however, if they comply with the new aviation security measures, senior officials said Wednesday.
The FT concludes, one European airline official predicted “chaos, at least to begin with”, saying there were questions over the cost of new security equipment and whether passengers transferring on their way to the US would need to be screened twice. But the official added:
“We’re absolutely relieved that this is not a laptop ban, and that this is a worldwide measure, not one that is EU focused. A laptop ban would have caused fire hazards if they were packed in the hold, and those issues were never resolved.”
But people close to major European airports played down the impact the new security measures would have, noting that they already have some of the most robust security in the world.
“From what we understand this would be just general enhanced screening,” according to one industry spokesperson. “It’s something we have been preparing for already.”
US government officials see an “urgent and evolving” terror threat to airliners and terrorists are plotting “multiple approaches” to breach airline security. They say the new measures will counter risks previously tackled only in piecemeal fashion as they emerged, such as explosives concealed in underwear, shoes, liquids and most recently laptops.