Bringing a laptop into the cabin or the baggage hold, this subject has raised quite a bit of confusion in the spring of 2017. New rules were implemented on 21 March by John Kelly, the Secretary of Homeland Security in the United States. The rules on laptops stated that it was forbidden for eight countries to bring along ‘large’ electronics on flights to the USA. Under large electronics were understood any devices larger than 16 by 9,3 centimeters. This include laptops, but also many tablets, e-readers and some of the larger phones.
Explosives in laptops
The reason for the ban on laptops is that it would have been fairly simple to hide explosives in these electronic devices. It can be very difficult for scanning devices or manual inspectors to see whether a battery is in fact a battery, or an explosive disguised as a battery. Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the United States has been extremely vigilant in preventing any terrorist attacks by plane.
Laptop ban from Europe
Initially, the ban was only meant to apply for flights to the USA from eight countries in Africa and the Middle East. However, later newspapers across Europe were filled with headlines that the ban would extend to various European countries. It wouldn’t concern a total ban, laptops were still allowed on if they were checked-in; not in the cabin, but in the hold. The problem was that Lithium-Ion batteries, which are found in many laptops, can very rarely spontaneously combust; the most recent example of this was the Samsung Note, which caused controversy in 2016 for its many cases of combustion.
Putting out battery fires can be difficult, especially if they are in the baggage hold where nobody can reach them during the flight. Furthermore, it might even be possible to detonate an explosive from a distance once the baggage with the laptop in it has been checked-in. The proposition of the US government to transport laptops in the baggage hold was therefore not appreciated by the airlines and European governments.
These extra checks don’t just apply to flights from Europe. Even the eight countries on the electronics ban list still have to deal with it. As soon as the airlines of flights from these countries can show that they have adequately implemented these additional checks, the laptop ban can be fully lifted.
British travellers headed to the USA can thus bring their laptops and other electronics without trouble. The ban might still exist for a select few countries, but even in those cases, the laptop will simply be put inside the main luggage during check-in and placed in the baggage hold of the plane.