How are airports handling the electronics ban?
Tuesday, May 30, 2017
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly announced Sunday the news travelers have been hoping to avoid: The ban on carrying laptops and larger electronic items in the aircraft cabin may soon be extended to all international flights in and out of the United States.
Introduced in March, the U.S. government order was introduced to ban devices larger than a regular smartphone from being carried in the cabin on flights from 10 Middle East airports. The move was based on intelligence suggesting devices would potentially be used to conceal explosives by terrorist organization Al-Qaeda.
When asked Sunday by Fox News whether he would extend the ban to all international flights, Kelly replied, "I might."
"That's the thing that they are obsessed with, the terrorists, the idea of knocking down an airplane in flight, particularly if it's a U.S. carrier, particularly if it's full of U.S. people," Kelly added.
With the ban already in place on certain flights, how are airports coping so far? And what measures are being established to ensure passengers are not inconvenienced?
New procedures are currently being tested at 10 airports across the country that ask passengers to place electronic items in separate bins during screening to allow closer examination. It is a symptom of ever-more-crowded carry-on bags that result in X-ray screenings taking longer per passenger and slower processing. Therefore, by placing electronic items in separate bins, the process should (in theory) speed up.
The new screening measures are being tested at the following airports: Boise, Idaho; Colorado Springs, Colorado; Detroit Metropolitan Airport; Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Florida; Logan Airport in Boston; Los Angeles International Airport; Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport in Lubbock, Texas; Luis Munoz Marin International Airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico; McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas; and Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.
It is not anticipated that any other airports will start operating the extra screening measures until it is established whether the process has improved the effectiveness of scanning electronic devices. It also remains to be seen whether an all-out ban is introduced, and what effect that will have on screening.
Manufacturers of airport scanners are always developing their technology, and it is hoped that new machines that can detect explosives in electronics and liquids without the need to remove them from baggage will soon be available.
Joseph Paresi, chief executive officer of Integrated Defense & Security Solutions Inc, calls the development of more sophisticated scanners "a no-brainer." His company has developed one of the new scanning machines that has passed initial U.S. government testing.
"It's not if. It's when it's going to happen," Paresi told Bloomberg.
However, the price tag of introducing new machines could be a significant hindrance to airports the world over. The cost of completely replacing existing machines at U.S. airports alone would be over $1 billion, with no guarantee of government funding.
Until the future of screening is known — including whether the ban is extended and whether new technology will be introduced — passengers are expected to experience long lines at security, and a differing experience depending on which airport (and which country) they are flying from and to.
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