The US government is barring passengers on Royal Jordanian Airlines flights from bringing laptops, iPads, cameras and other electronics in carry-on luggage on certain US-bound flights starting today, the airline has said in a tweet. The airline yesterday said cellphones and medical devices are excluded from the ban. Everything else, the airline said, would need to be packed in checked luggage. It is unclear what other countries and airlines the ban will apply to, how long it will be in place or what prompted it.
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly phoned lawmakers over the weekend to brief them on aviation security issues that have prompted the impending electronics ban, according a congressional aide briefed on the discussion.
The aide was not authorized to speak publicly about the issue and spoke on the condition of anonymity. A US government official said such a ban has been considered for several weeks. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose the internal security discussions by the federal government. David Lapan, a spokesman for Homeland Security Department, declined to comment.
“We have no comment on potential security precautions, but will provide any update as appropriate,” Lapan said in an email. The Transportation Security Administration, part of Homeland Security, also declined to comment. Royal Jordanian said the electronics ban affects its flights to New York, Chicago, Detroit and Montreal.
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An aviation security expert said the policy would raise other safety issues. “There would be a huge disadvantage to having everyone put their electronics in checked baggage,” said Jeffrey Price, a professor at Metropolitan State University of Denver.
He said thefts from baggage would skyrocket, as when England tried a similar ban in 2006, and “some laptops have batteries that can catch fire and it’s easier to detect it when it’s in the cabin rather than burning in the hold.”
However, there are also advantages to screening items in checked baggage instead of as carry-on luggage.
Most major airports in the United States have a computer tomography or CT scanner for checked baggage, which creates a detailed picture of a bag’s contents. They can warn an operator of potentially dangerous material, and may provide better security than the X-ray machines used to screen passengers and their carry-on bags.