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U.S. May Extend Laptop Ban to Include All Flights From Europe

According to a survey conducted in 2009, business professionals who travel on commercial airlines reported a 40% drop in their productivity. And for passengers stuck in coach, American Airlines is the latest airline to decrease legroom, again, from 31 inches to as low as 29 inches. Now, there’s more bad news for international travelers as well.

If the Department of Homeland Security decides to expand the current airplane laptop ban, it could mean a massive inconvenience for countless international travelers.

Back in March, both the U.S. and Britain banned passengers traveling through 10 different Muslim-majority countries from carrying any electronic device larger than a cellphone — laptops, tablets, and other digital devices — in their carry-on luggage on all direct inbound flights. Instead, these passengers on flights from Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, the UAE, and others are required to pack these devices away in their checked baggage. The ban was based on intelligence that reported that the jihadist Islamic State was in the process of developing a bomb that could be placed in portable devices that resemble laptops and can go undetected by airport security scans.

But now, the U.S. is seriously considering extending the ban to include not only flights from these Muslim-majority counties but any and all flights from Europe to the United States.

The possible extension solve the problem of dangerous passengers whose flights originated in the Middle East and Africa but who board connecting flights to the U.S. in European countries. There’s also a concern that “radicalized citizens of European Union nations or people with dual citizenship could target United States-bound flights,” according to an intelligence official vetted by the New York Times.

Spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security, David Lapan, says no final decision has been made as yet, but that they’re likely to expand the laptop ban soon. Officials have not said when the new ban would take effect.

But before they go ahead with the ban expansion, there’s a different safety problem that needs to be solved. Forcing passengers to store their potentially hundreds of electronic devices — which contain lithium batteries — within the hull of the airplane could pose an even greater risk to airplane safety. Those devices could potentially explode in the belly of the plane and cause a deadly mid-air fire.

And, of course, the band could cause a nightmare at airport security.

If the laptop ban expansion is approved, U.S. carriers including United Airlines, Delta Airlines, and American Airlines Group could be affected, along with every passenger who needs to do work — or just wants to catch up on their favorite show — while up in the air.