If you fly a lot – or even a little – your laptop or tablet is likely one of the first things you pack in your carry-on bag. This could be because you’re a tech addict who can’t bear to be parted from your precious device. Maybe your workload is so mountainous, you feel guilty about sitting in the departures lounge without cracking on with a bit of admin (if this is the case, you definitely need to take a longer holiday next time). Or perhaps you’d just rather plough through your latest pre-downloaded TV obsession than sit through whatever films the airline has on offer that day.
However, it looks like you’ll soon have to change your ways when travelling to the US – because the Trump administration is set to ban laptops on flights from Europe to the US. (Cue howl of outrage.)
Laptops, tablets and other electronic devices larger than mobile phones have already been banned on flights to the US from airports in North Africa and the Middle East, as a result of fears that terrorists have found a way to convert laptops into bombs.
This ban is now expected to be expanded to include flights from some European countries, including Britain, Reuters reports. It’s not clear whether the European ban will also apply to tablets, but personal computers will now have to be checked into the hold as baggage.
Peter Goelz, former managing director at the US National Transportation Safety Board, said that expanding the in-cabin ban on large electronics “is going to represent a major logistical problem for airlines”.
He made no mention of the stressed parents who now won’t be able to distract their screaming toddlers with an episode of Peppa Pig on the iPad, although we’re sure they were in his thoughts.
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Goelz added that more money needs to be dedicated to improving screening of electronic devices in airports, because it is currently “very difficult to determine whether a dense object is actually a battery or a plastic explosive” – which doesn’t exactly fill you with confidence about your next flight, does it?
Also unclear is whether safety will necessarily be increased by storing computers in the hold. Clive Irving at The Daily Beast reports that there are “fears in the aviation industry that as well as guarding against bombs this ban could actually endanger flights”, as computer devices with lithium-ion batteries have been known to set on fire – which could set off a deadly blaze in a cargo hold.
Dave Lapan, a spokesperson for the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), said that a final decision hadn’t yet been made on whether the ban would actually be extended to Europe.
He added: “We continue to evaluate the threat environment and have been engaged in discussions with airline representatives and other stakeholders about the threat.”
A decision was expected to be reached on Thursday. We’ll keep you posted.