CHARLESTON (WCBD) – The summer travel season is underway and a major security change at airports is possible.
The Department of Homeland Security is looking at rules to prohibit passengers from carrying any electronic device larger than a cell phone on board flights leaving Europe for the United States.
If the rule goes into effect, laptops, tablets, and DVD players would be required to go with checked luggage. The idea: luggage with electronics would undergo more thorough screening.
Recent reports show intelligence services suspect the Islamic State is working on a way to hide bombs in laptop batteries. U.S. officials are trying to prevent events similar to the downing of a Russian jet over Egypt or anything that could blow-up a passenger plane.
“My sense is this is a very real threat,” said Michael S Smith II, a terrorism analyst based in Charleston. “It presents an unprecedented security challenge.”
The new rules under consideration would expand a current ban launched in March that affects about 50 flights per day from 10 cities, mostly in the Middle East and North Africa.
Expanding the restrictions to European airports would impact thousands of passengers, including business travelers and those using an in-flight entertainment system on lengthy flights.
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said in an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” there is a broader plan to “raise the bar” on airline security.
“That’s the thing that they are obsessed with, the terrorists, the idea of knocking down an airplane in flight, particularly if it’s a U.S. carrier,” Kelly said.
Experts say there is a legitimate terror threat, although a restriction of this magnitude might be a knee-jerk reaction that will not stick around.
“It might be the case that they are developing means to circumvent a variety of security protocols that are in place right now,” said Smith. “The more likely scenario is that they have developed some type of explosive that would not trigger sensors at airports around the world, especially nearby where they are primarily operating.”
More than 3,000 flights are expected to arrive in the United States. from Europe on a weekly basis this summer, meaning new security restrictions could increase delays.