U.S., Europeans to meet next week on aviation security

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. technical experts will hold more talks in Brussels next week in an effort to avert expanding a ban on in-cabin large electronics like laptops to airports in Europe and other regions, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security chief said on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: A TSA official removes a laptop from a bag for scanning using the Transport Security Administration's new Automated Screening Lane technology at Terminal 4 of JFK airport in New York City, U.S., May 17, 2017. REUTERS/Joe Penney/File Photo

The United States is driving an effort that aims to raise worldwide “routine aviation security to a much higher level,” Homeland Secretary John Kelly said at a Capitol Hill forum. He added that the United States has a “step by step” plan that can be implemented in stages over time.

“The bar will be raised much, much higher than it is today,” he said.

Kelly has said that if airlines and airports meet stricter security standards, they may avoid the ban. “The threat is very real,” he said.

A European aviation industry official said the United States presented a revised 10-point security enhancement list at a meeting last week in Malta.

The restrictions on laptops, announced in March, applied to flights originating from airports in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey. They came amid fears that a concealed bomb could be installed in electronic devices taken aboard aircraft.

The U.S. restrictions cover about 350 flights a week originating from 10 airports, primarily in the Middle East.

Britain quickly followed suit with restrictions on a slightly different set of routes.

Any expansion of the ban could impact U.S. carriers such as United Airlines, Delta Air Lines Inc and American Airlines Group.

Earlier this month, Kelly said the U.S. government might expand a ban on larger electronics to flights originating from as many as 71 airports in Europe.

Extending the ban to all European airports that directly serve U.S. airports would affect nearly 400 flights a day and cover 30 million travelers, posing major logistical challenges, airlines and security officials say.

Kelly said U.S. authorities want to take the 10 airports off the restrictions list “by simply doing the kind of things that we’re talking about here in terms of raising aviation security.”

Reporting by David Shepardson Additional reporting by Julia Fioretti in Brussels; Editing by Dan Grebler