EU, US hold 'robust' talks on possible airline laptop ban


US and European Union officials will meet next week in Washington for more talks about risks to air travel after a meeting in Brussels on Wednesday did not, as some industry watchers had expected, extend a cabin ban on large electronics devices.

If this morning's reports from the BBC and other sources have it right, the ban on in-cabin laptops will not be extended to include additional flights from Europe to the U.S.

U.S. officials had previously said they were looking into extending to Europe a ban on electronic devices on flights originating from 10 airports in eight countries including the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, over alleged concerns that bombs could be hidden in the devices.

They discussed "existing aviation security standards and detection capabilities" as well as security improvements "related to large electronic devices placed in checked baggage", it added.

Jeffrey Price, an aviation-security expert at Metropolitan State University of Denver, said the original ban focused on certain countries because their equipment to screen carry-on bags is not as effective as machines in the U.S.

The dialogue was robust and collaborative, according to a US senior administration official speaking to reporters at a briefing.

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Currently, aviation officials warn that electronic devices using lithium-ion batteries should be kept in the passenger cabin so crew can quickly put out a fire on board.

The Washington Post and other news organizations on Monday reported that President Donald Trump gave Russia's foreign minister and ambassador closely held intelligence obtained from a USA partner about an Islamic State terrorist plot to use laptops as possible weapons aboard commercial aircraft.

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly was mulling "next steps" and would make any decision based on an evaluation of threats, the official said on condition of anonymity. However, officials said that other measures are still being considered, though they failed to elaborate on what these measures might be.

The US official noted terrorist groups were "aggressively pursuing innovative methods to undertake their attacks, including smuggling explosive devices in various consumer items" onto commercial flights. It turned out the information Trump offered was related to the laptop ban the United States imposed a few months ago on certain Middle Eastern countries, and which it planned to extend to all of Europe.

Homeland Security previously said the electronics ban involving Middle Eastern airports was put in place because USA officials were "concerned about terrorists' ongoing interest in targeting commercial aviation". And in this week's letter, IATA proposes a number of measures that could be taken to reduce the threat without resorting to an all-out ban.

"Eventually I'd hope we could work to a solution that doesn't ban laptops in the cabin", Kelly said.