Word has been leaking for most of May that the Trump administration is considering expanding the flight ban on laptops from Middle Eastern airports to all European flights and possibly other regions as well. Now, it appears, that ban might arrive as soon as next week.
Politico is reporting that the Transportation Security Administration and Federal Aviation Administration are laying the groundwork for the ban, and although Homeland Security chief John Kelly has insisted the rule is simply being considered, airlines are prepared for it to be put into effect:
One U.S. airline source said his company is “preparing like they’re about to” roll it out. “We haven’t gotten firm confirmation but by all accounts. It looks like we think they’re going to do it” within the next week — but probably sooner rather than later, he said. “I just know that based on our assessment of what [DHS] told us, we’re preparing for it to happen,” he said.
This is happening despite the concerns of many pilots that such a ban will make flights less safe, not moreso. The lithium-ion batteries used to power our stuff have a long history of igniting on flights or otherwise causing problems, a list so long the FAA’s summary accounting dates back to 1994 and takes up 38 pages. Pilots prefer batteries in the cabin, where attendants with fire extinguishers can get at them, instead of the hold, where fire suppression systems may not be enough to protect the flight. Likely not helping matters is the TSA’s newly expanded rules about what you have to have inspected when you fly, meaning anything larger than a smartphone will be checked over, not that it matters as what we experience in airports is largely just theater that can’t protect us.
So why do it? Analysts have noted that, from a security perspective, it makes little sense. But from an economic perspective, if you want to punish state-owned airlines and make them less appealing to business travelers, it’s a much more logical move. The Trump administration may see an opportunity to ding European airlines and it’s taking it.
That said, oddly, we know that the proposed ban does have some sort of basis in reality. Why? Because Trump’s intelligence leak to the Russians was about the laptop bombs. Yes, everything is strange now.