Airports Must Enhance Security Screenings, Or Face Laptop Ban

Image courtesy of Inha Leex Hale

The Department of Homeland Security is telling airports around the world that they could face a ban on carry-on electronics for U.S.-bound flights if their security doesn’t meet new DHS standards.

DHS Secretary John Kelly revealed the new measures Wednesday afternoon, noting that the agency is raising “the global baseline of global aviation security.”

“Unless we raise our security standards, terrorists will find a way to attack the weakest link,” Kelly said. “Today is just a starting point to reduce insider threats and identify suspicious passengers.”

The new measures, which will affect roughly 2,100 daily commercial flights departing from 280 airports, include:

• enhanced overall passenger screening
• heightened screening of personal electronic devices
• increased security protocols around aircraft and in passenger areas
• advanced technology, expanded canine screening, and additional preclearance locations.

While Kelly did not provide specific details on the enhanced screening, he said DHS will lay out a “clear path” to encourage airlines and airports to adopt more sophisticated screening approaches, including better use of explosive detection canines and advanced checkpoint screening technology.

Additionally, the agency says it will encourage more airports to become Preclearance locations, where security is enhanced because passengers go through customs and border security screening before boarding flights to the U.S.

“The enhanced security measures are both seen and unseen but all passengers flying to the United States may experience additional screening of their person and property,” DHS said. “We recommend that passengers flying to the United States prepare for a more extensive screening process.”

Airports that do not cooperate with the new measures or are too slow to adopt them “could be subject to other restrictions—including a ban on electronic devices on their airplanes, or even a suspension of their flights to the United States,” Kelly added.

To determine if foreign airports are abiding by the new regulations, DHS will assess and inspect airlines.

“With this announcement, we send a clear message that inaction is not an option,” Kelly said.

Kelly didn’t provide a timeframe for when the new restrictions would take effect, but noted that the agency would work with aviation stakeholders over the next several weeks and months to ensure these enhanced security measures are fully implemented.

Reuters, citing people familiar with the agency, reports that airlines have 21 days to put in place increased explosive screening and 120 days to comply with other security measures.