“As threats change,” says the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA), “so too will TSA’s security requirements”. Reports suggest that those requirements are about to get much tougher for European airline passengers wanting to fly to the US.
In March, the Department of Homeland Security rushed out a ban on electronic devices in hand luggage on flights from eight countries in North Africa and the Middle East.
Anything bigger than a mobile phone cannot be carried into the cabin of an aircraft flying from Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar and the UAE.
Soon afterwards the UK followed suit, except that Morocco, Qatar and the UAE were subtracted from the list and Lebanon was added.
The US position is a curious prohibition, because Emirates flights from Dubai to New York are regarded as “suspect” by the Americans, unless the plane touches down in Athens or Milan along the way.
Now, though, passengers using those and dozens of other “Last Point of Departure” airports could find themselves subject to the same ban. CBS is reporting that a decision in the next few weeks is likely to extend the ban to include flights from Europe.
If the reports are true, the number of flights affected worldwide would increase from a few dozen each day to many hundreds.
The controversial orders Donald Trump has already issued
The controversial orders Donald Trump has already issued
1/9 Trump and the media
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer takes questions during the daily press briefing
2/9 Trump and the Trans-Pacific Partnership
Union leaders applaud US President Donald Trump for signing an executive order withdrawing the US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations during a meeting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington DC. Mr Trump issued a presidential memorandum in January announcing that the US would withdraw from the trade deal
3/9 Trump and the Mexico wall
A US Border Patrol vehicle sits waiting for illegal immigrants at a fence opening near the US-Mexico border near McAllen, Texas. The number of incoming immigrants has surged ahead of the upcoming Presidential inauguration of Donald Trump, who has pledged to build a wall along the US-Mexico border. A signature campaign promise, Mr Trump outlined his intention to build a border wall on the US-Mexico border days after taking office
4/9 Trump and abortion
US President Donald Trump signs an executive order as Chief of Staff Reince Priebus looks on in the Oval Office of the White House. Mr Trump reinstated a ban on American financial aide being granted to non-governmental organizations that provide abortion counseling, provide abortion referrals, or advocate for abortion access outside of the United States
5/9 Trump and the Dakota Access pipeline
Opponents of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines hold a rally as they protest US President Donald Trump's executive orders advancing their construction, at Columbus Circle in New York. US President Donald Trump signed executive orders reviving the construction of two controversial oil pipelines, but said the projects would be subject to renegotiation
6/9 Trump and 'Obamacare'
Nancy Pelosi who is the minority leader of the House of Representatives speaks beside House Democrats at an event to protect the Affordable Care Act in Los Angeles, California. US President Donald Trump's effort to make good on his campaign promise to repeal and replace the healthcare law failed when Republicans failed to get enough votes. Mr Trump has promised to revisit the matter
7/9 Donald Trump and 'sanctuary cities'
US President Donald Trump signed an executive order in January threatening to pull funding for so-called "sanctuary cities" if they do not comply with federal immigration law
8/9 Trump and the travel ban
US President Donald Trump has attempted twice to restrict travel into the United States from several predominantly Muslim countries. The first attempt, in February, was met with swift opposition from protesters who flocked to airports around the country. That travel ban was later blocked by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The second ban was blocked by a federal judge a day before it was scheduled to be implemented in mid-March
SANDY HUFFAKER/AFP/Getty Images
9/9 Trump and climate change
US President Donald Trump sought to dismantle several of his predecessor's actions on climate change in March. His order instructed the Environmental Protection Agency to reevaluate the Clean Power Plan, which would cap power plant emissions
More passengers at Heathrow would suffer than anywhere else: it is the main European hub for transatlantic flights. A vast amount of extra security effort would be needed in order to ensure that passengers to every country except the US can take their iPads, laptops and Kindles into the cabin at normal, while those heading for New York, Miami and Los Angeles are deprived of their technological supports.
Heathrow and Gatwick, which also handles a lot of transatlantic traffic, are respectively the busiest two-runway and single-runway airports in the world. As many previous issues have shown, resilience in the event of disruption is a problem.
Passengers are likely to be dismayed at the prospect of a long flight without entertainment or the chance to work, and the impact on US tourism is likely to be significant. But security tends to overrule considerations about inbound tourism.
The Department of Homeland Security says: “Evaluated intelligence indicates that terrorist groups continue to target commercial aviation, to include smuggling explosive devices in various consumer items.” It cites as evidence “the 2016 attempted airliner downing in Somalia”, in which a bomb concealed in a laptop detonated in flight, killing only the perpetrator.
But in the latest edition of Aviation Security International, the editor, Philip Baum, points out: “An airport employee literally handed over the device to the passenger thereby circumventing the passenger screening system.
“Were there to be direct flights from Somalia to the UK or the US, the latest restrictions would have had no effect whatsoever; the only people to be inconvenienced would have been those law-abiding passengers who checked their laptops into the hold.”
He says the measures as presently imposed “defy common sense”.
But the Department for Homeland Security insists: “Our information indicates that terrorist groups’ efforts to execute an attack against the aviation sector are intensifying given that aviation attacks provide an opportunity to cause mass casualties and inflict significant economic damage, as well as generate overwhelming media coverage.”
It is pledged to “adjust its security measures to ensure the highest levels of aviation security”. Which could spell a summer of disruption for transatlantic travellers.Reuse content