The Department of Homeland Security is rolling out enhanced
security measures that would end onboard laptop/tablet bans if airlines comply
with the DHS's directive.
The directive will impact 280 airports in 105 countries
around the world as well as 180 airlines, both foreign and domestic, which
operate approximately 2,000 inbound flights to the U.S. daily.
"We believe we have struck the right balance with these
measures," a senior DHS official said during a press briefing.
The DHS isn't saying much about the details of the new
directive. But it will require airlines to implement enhanced screening of
passengers and electronic devices larger than a cell phone, as well as more
thorough screening of public areas in airports.
"We cannot play international whack-a-mole with each new threat. Instead, we must put in place new measures across the board to keep the traveling public safe and make it harder for terrorists to succeed," DHS secretary John Kelly said.
Some of the required measures will be visible to passengers
and could include the use of next-generation screening devices and a larger
presence of canines. Other measures, the DHS said, will be unseen.
At some airports, especially those in which security
measures are currently lax, the security process will become more intensive,
the DHS official said. He advised travelers to check with airlines about any
The DHS said that it will have varying time lines for
implementation of its directive. Some of the measures will take effect as soon
as today and others will be required over a longer trajectory.
The measures, the senior DHS official said, come as intelligence
reports show that commercial aviation continues to be a target for terrorist
The news could be viewed as a positive by airlines, which
have grown weary of DHS threats to expand the carry-on electronics ban on
inbound U.S. flights beyond the current 10 airports in the Middle and North
Africa. Last month, Kelly said the ban could be expanded to
71 airports worldwide.
The DHS said Wednesday that the ban will end at the 10
existing airports, which include the hubs of major global carriers Emirates,
Qatar Airways, Etihad and Turkish Airlines, once carriers at those airports
comply with the new directive.
"It's up to the carriers how quickly they want to move,"
the official said.
The official added that he expects 99% of airlines to comply
with the directive. But airlines that do not will face a ban on all electronic
devices larger than a cell phone, both as carry-ons and in checked bags.
The DHS said that it communicated with airlines as it
prepared the new directives.
"We will be giving the airlines sufficient time to
implement these measures in an orderly fashion," the senior official said.