America to extend laptop flight ban to some EU countries
Passengers on flights from the EU to the US face being forced to stow their laptops and other electronic devices in aircraft cargo holds.
The Trump administration plans to extend a ban that was recently introduced on flights from the Middle East and Turkey.
The US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) fears that bombs could be concealed in laptops, with terrorists replacing batteries with plastic explosives for instance.
One of the EU's top transport officials said yesterday that there's still "no clarity" on when the ban might be introduced, or if indeed it will be.
However, news agency Reuters reported yesterday that US officials have already privately confirmed the ban will be introduced on flights from some EU countries.
Speaking yesterday on the sidelines of the CAPA aviation summit in Co Wicklow, the EU's director general for mobility and transport, Henrik Hololei, said EU officials held talks this week with counterparts with the TSA in Washington.
"At this stage, the information available to us is very limited," he said, adding that there was also an extraordinary meeting in Brussels of aviation advisers yesterday, to discuss the possible ban.
"The US side has communicated nothing formally to us and we are aware that they are contemplating the issue and there are on-going internal discussions," he said.The EU has already expressed concerns that storing possibly hundreds of electronic devices in cargo holds could present a fire safety risk due to poorly deactivated lithium-ion batteries.
Mr Hololei said that any security challenge for aircraft should not be mitigated by creating a safety challenge.
"What we want, and what is essential for aviation, is the highest level of safety and the highest level of security, and these have to co-exist," he said. "It is not possible to trade one for the other."
He also declined to say whether the EU agreed with the US laptop threat assessment.
"I don't want to comment on the security threat… because they are classified," he said.
Mr Hololei said that rumours about the possible ban have been circulating for a number of weeks. "Let's see how things are going to shape up," he said, adding that he could not speculate as to whether or not the EU would take any retaliatory action against US flights to Europe if a ban was introduced by US authorities.
"I don't want to speculate at this stage about the next steps," he told the Irish Independent.
"It's clear that we have also looked into all the possible options."