No Laptops on Flights from Europe? What You Need to Know

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Before Tuesday, the biggest worry travelers had when bringing their laptops on a flight was whether or not the lousy in-flight Wi-Fi was going to work or not. But if the U.S. government passes a new expansion on an old ban, airline passengers could soon be forbidden from bringing any electronic device larger than a cell phone aboard certain flights from Europe to the U.S.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, the regulation would be implemented to prevent terrorist attacks that involve bombs built into laptops and other electronics. If this ban is passed, it will actually be an expansion on a ban already in place that was imposed on certain flights from the Middle East to the U.S. back in March. 

If the federal administration expands the ban to include some European flights as is anticipated, passengers will be required to carry all electronic devices larger than a cell phone (which includes tablets, laptops, e-readers, some gaming devices, and DVD players) in their checked luggage, so the devices will be stowed in the plane’s cargo hold, unable to be accessed.

The current ban on Middle Eastern flights covers only nonstop flights to the U.S. coming from 10 airports in the Middle East and North Africa — including a few of the busiest transit hubs in the world: Istanbul, Turkey, and Dubai in the UAE.

John F. Kelly, the Homeland Security secretary, is to brief senators on security topics on Thursday and make a final decision on whether or not the current ban will be expanded to European flights, according to a report from the New York Times. The expansion is being considered over concerns of radicalized E.U. citizens, dual-citizenship E.U. citizens who also hold citizenship in Middle Eastern countries, and terrorists flying through Europe to get to the U.S. with a bomb-rigged device — even though Britain (whose London-Heathrow airport is where 17 percent of all flights to the U.S. originate) also imposed similar restrictions in March.

If the ban is expanded, more than a couple of issues could arise for travelers. Because of the ban enacting restrictions in multiple hubs around the world, one major problem is passengers connecting in Europe from flights originating in the Middle East and Africa. The NYT report also states that a senior official with a United States airline said that carriers had been in talks with government officials for weeks about the difficult logistics of carrying it out.

Additionally, enacting the ban could endanger flights, since devices with a history of causing lithium-ion battery fires could potentially set off deadly explosions in the cargo holds of planes where fires cannot be extinguished.

A final decision has yet been made, but future possible restrictions could affect major European carriers such as Lufthansa, British Airways, and Air France-KLM.