U.S. airlines and some related businesses are making preparations for an imminent decision by the Trump administration to expand the airborne laptop ban to flights from Europe and possibly other regions, maybe as soon as Thursday, several sources told POLITICO.
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.
Another airline industry source said an announcement probably won’t come Thursday, as DHS is "still doing stakeholder meetings today. FAA is still engaging in the process as well. Expectation is that nothing would go into effect until" President Donald Trump returns from his overseas trip this weekend.
DHS has held several briefings in recent weeks with U.S. lawmakers, EU officials and industry groups on the possible ban, which would prohibit laptops, tablets and other larger electronics from riding in the cabins of planes flying toward the United States. It imposed similar restrictions earlier this year on U.S.-bound flights from 10 Middle Eastern airports, amid fears that terrorist groups are becoming more skilled in hiding bombs inside electronic devices that screening technology can’t currently detect.
If a decision comes in the next day or so, it’s sure to roil relations with European counterparts, many of whom are already miffed at what they say has been a unilateral approach by DHS — especially since, as one European diplomat said, DHS "said they would wait some time to be complete about the safety risk" during technical meetings this week. Another European diplomat said the agency had "agreed to follow up on a meeting next week on safety issues.”
During a hearing Thursday on Capitol Hill, DHS Secretary John Kelly reiterated that he’s not yet made a final decision about whether to expand the ban. But he noted it’s still on the table as DHS monitors "a number of very, very sophisticated advanced threats."
Andrew Hanna contributed to this report.