News & Politics

DHS to Ban Laptops in Cabins on Flights From Europe

If you were planning to take your laptop to Europe and get some work done on your way home, you can forget about it.

The Daily Beast is reporting that the Department of Homeland Security will announce as early as tomorrow that laptops on flights from Europe to the U.S. will be banned in the cabin. Instead, they will have to be checked as baggage.

Initially a ban on laptops and tablets was applied only to U.S.-bound flights from 10 airports in North Africa and the Middle East. The ban was based on U.S. fears that terrorists have found a way to convert laptops into bombs capable of bringing down an airplane. It is unclear if the European ban will also apply to tablets.

DHS said in a statement to The Daily Beast: “No final decisions have been made on expanding the restriction on large electronic devices in aircraft cabins; however, it is under consideration. DHS continues to evaluate the threat environment and will make changes when necessary to keep air travelers safe.”

However, this move is increasing fears in the aviation industry that as well as guarding against bombs this ban could actually endanger flights. Laptops and tablets denied access to the cabin and added to checked baggage means that devices with a history of lithium-ion battery fires could set off a deadly conflagration in a cargo hold — where no one can put out the fires.

The FAA recorded 33 incidents in 2016 of personal electronic devices carried into cabins by passengers causing fire emergencies during flights, according to an FAA document reviewed by The Daily Beast. Of these, three were in laptops and two in tablets.

Two of the most serious were on Delta flights and both involved laptops.

On January 15, 2016 on a flight from Minneapolis to Atlanta fire broke out in a bag in an overhead bin shortly before landing. The smoke in the cabin became so overwhelming that when the flight reached the gate, passengers opened emergency exits over the wings and staff on the ramp helped them escape directly from the wings.

Flight attendants used halon fire suppressant extinguishers and water extinguishers to put out the fire, which had originated in two laptops.

On December 3, 2016 fire broke out in an overhead bin on a flight from Honolulu to Atlanta. Cabin crew needed three halon extinguishers and two water extinguishers to put out a fire originating in a laptop. For the rest of the flight the laptop was placed in a cooler with ice and monitored.

The FAA stressed that the 33 incidents are only ones that they are aware of. “This should not be considered as a complete listing of all such incidents…nor do they include all investigative and enforcement actions taken,” the documented stated.

So, are we more afraid of terrorists building a bomb into a laptop or one of those infernal machines catching fire in the cargo hold? Pick your poison, people, but my own feelings are that if there were 33 incidents of personal electronic devices catching fire in the cabin and zero incidents of a bomb going off in one of those devices, the choice should be obvious.

DHS reminds me of the nannies at America’s schools who lock down buildings because of pop tarts in the shape of guns or expel kids for “liking” the wrong social media post. And yet, they pat down little old ladies and carry out full-body searches of teenage girls at airports while deliberately ignoring obvious suspects — like the you-know-whos. The you-know-whos can’t be searched because it would hurt their feelings for being singled out as potential terrorists. Of course, if the shoe fits…

Meanwhile, don’t you find it extraordinary that we’re employing the exact same security procedures on flights from Europe as we do on flights from the Middle East? Could it be that the hundreds of ISIS fighters who infiltrated European countries disguised as refugees might have something to do with it?