US to seek more security on international flights

by Ben Pena June 29, 2017, 2:14
US to seek more security on international flights

The Trump administration on Wednesday threatened to ban laptops and other large electronic devices from any worldwide flight coming to the United States unless the airline meets new security checks, including enhanced airport screening and improved passenger vetting.

Compliance with the new rules could lead to the lifting of a ban on laptops and other large electronics already in place for airlines flying to the United States from 10 airports in the Middle East and Africa.

Nearly all airports, particularly those in developed nations that already have sophisticated security measures, should be able to meet the new requirements, according to the agency. It will apply to an average of 325,000 passengers a day flying to the US from 280 airports in 105 countries, according to the agency.

"Security is my No. 1 concern", Kelly said during a speech at the Center for a New American Security. But he said the measures are not the last step to tighten security.

Measures will include enhanced screening of electronic devices and more thorough passenger vetting.

Officials refused to say what the screening would entail or whether it would delay passengers, insisting that that depends on how carriers and foreign airports choose to implement the screening, which appears aimed at trying to prevent terrorists from smuggling bombs hidden in laptops onboard a plane.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to brief reporters, said Kelly worked with airlines to find ways to improve screening without unduly inconveniencing passengers.

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US airline stocks were higher on Wednesday, with United Continental Holdings up 0.9 percent, Delta Air Lines Inc up 1.9 percent and American Airlines Group up 1.5 percent. DHS says countries now under the laptop ban can get off the list if the new measures are implemented all at their airports.

"Terrorists want to bring down aircraft", Kelly said during a conference in Washington, D.C.

He said last week that airlines must take the issue seriously.

Kelly met with senior airline executives in May and Homeland Security officials have had repeated meetings with USA airline executives. Immediately following the US announcement, the United Kingdom government imposed its own ban, which affected both foreign and domestic carriers.

The new measures couldn't come soon enough for experts like Robert Mann, analyst at R.W. Mann & Co, who told Reuters that current screening of carry-on luggage "can't tell the difference between a block of cheese, a romance novel and a block of semtex plastic explosives because they're all about the same density".

U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said at a June Senate hearing that lithium ion batteries on airplanes can be a problem and pose a fire risk.

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