Yesterday Homeland Security blinked and balked.
Instead of banning cabin laptops on flights coming from Europe altogether, as it had been threatening for months, DHS came out with vague regulations which nobody yet understands.
In March, DHS completely banned laptops and tablets from ten airports, on all flights entering the United States.
The department backed off after intense pressure from travelers, airlines and European countries.
A complete ban on laptops would cost the travel industry billions, and is not supported by the evidence, according to travel industry spokespeople. Why are laptops in the cargo hold safer than laptops in passenger cabins?
The proposed rules would have affected nearly 2,000 flights carrying some 325,000 passengers a day, affecting 180 domestic and foreign airlines that fly from 280 airports.
So the DHS decided on a compromise. Secretary John F. Kelly implemented “enhanced” measures after taking into account “evaluated intelligence.”
“Our nation is being targeted daily by terrorists, criminals, hackers, nation states, and more. This isn't a new issue. But the threat has evolved.”
“We cannot play Whack-A-Mole with each new threat,” Kelly said.
What does this gobbledygook really mean?
One thing is certain: the new regulations will cost more money from the airlines, foreign governments and passengers.
Fees will go up.
Basically, it seems, passengers will be forced to carry their laptops and tablets to the gate, where the electronic equipment will be further screened by laser technology (which the airlines don’t have enough of yet) or by hand or by trained dogs. Batteries maybe be inspected and wiped with explosive detection cloths.
If something suspicious is found, the laptops will be placed in a special case, which will be stored with checked baggage.
Otherwise, most laptops and tablets will be allowed into the passenger cabins, much to the relief of passengers who were reading books on their Kindles.
So, if you want to fly with your tablet or laptop, avoid leaving from the ten airports where the ban is still in effect: Amman, Cairo, Ataturk, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Casablanca, Doha, Istanbul, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi.
Qatar Airways Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker last week invited U.S. officials to audit his airline’s Doha hub, which is affected by the ban.
“It would be really impossible for somebody to pass explosives [on board] in their laptops and iPads,” he told the Wall Street Journal.
If the new regulations don’t make Kelly secure, he is threatening a further extension of the laptop ban at some point in the future. If airlines don’t apply the new security measures, Kelly may ban them from flying to the United States altogether.