U.S. lifts laptop ban as affected countries improve security

The U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is lifting its ban on large electronic devices, typically laptops, in the passenger cabins of flights destined to the U.S. from certain countries in the Middle East. Has the threat of hidden explosives waned?

Saudi Arabian Airlines became the last carrier under the laptop restrictions to once again allow large electronic devices inside the cabins of aircraft bound for the U.S. The restrictions had been in place since March, mostly affecting carriers in the Middle East, due to a heightened concern over explosives being hidden in laptops and other devices larger than a smartphone. The restrictions were focused on airports more than airlines but the consequences were profound for airlines in the Gulf region which had aggressively expanded service to U.S. cities in the past several years

In June, the U.S. considered expanding the laptop ban to all flights entering the U.S. from foreign airports but instead issued a series of security directives for these airports to meet in order to be exempt from the ban. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has since clarified its criteria and has added more flexibility for airports to come under compliance. The security enhancements include the use of explosive detection equipment, canine units and other measures for more thorough passenger screening and to secure areas and around aircraft.

The ban could return, however, if the U.S. finds that airports cannot meet the standards for enhanced security. Airports will have four months from mid-July to become compliant or face a ban on large electronics in aircraft cabins once again.