US Demands More Security on International Flights to US

The Homeland Security Department has announced new security measures for international flights bound to the United States, which could lead to a lifting of a ban on laptops and other electronics from passenger cabins from certain airports. (AP Photo/John Locher)

(CN) — The Department of Homeland Security Wednesday told airlines the world over that they must step up security measures for international flights or face the prospect of a total ban on electronics on planes.

“Security is my No. 1 concern,” said Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly during a speech at the Center for a New American Security. “Our enemies are adaptive and we have to adapt as well.”

The new rules announced by Kelly on Wednesday include enhanced overall passenger screening; heightened screening of personal electronic devices; increased security protocols around aircraft and in passenger areas; and deploying advanced technology, expanding canine screening, and establishing additional preclearance locations.

Kelly said compliance with the new rules could lead to the lifting of a ban on laptops and other large electronics already in place for airlines flying to the United States from 10 airports in the Middle East and Africa.

The laptop and electronics ban has been in place since March and applies to nonstop flights to the United States from Amman, Jordan; Kuwait City, Kuwait; Cairo; Istanbul; Jeddah and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Casablanca, Morocco; Doha, Qatar; and Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.

It could also stave off a much-discussed expansion of the ban to flights from Europe, he said.

Kelly said the changes will be “seen and unseen” and will be phased in over the coming weeks and months.

He also said airlines that don’t comply or are slow to enforce the new standards could be forced to bar large electronics in both carry-on and checked luggage.

In particularly egregious cases, they could also lose permission to fly into the U.S.  But Kelly said he doubted such extreme measures would have to be taken.

The new rules will apply to roughly 180 foreign and U.S.-based airlines, flying from 280 cities in 105 countries, according to the Homeland Security website.

About 2,000 international flights land in the United States daily.

The changes comes  after the Transportation Security Administration said this month that it is testing computed-tomography, or CT, scanning at one checkpoint at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

The technology is already used for screening checked luggage, but the cost and larger size of the CT scanners has held back their use for carry-on bags. TSA had expected to begin testing CT scanners for carry-on luggage by the end of 2016.

American Airlines, which is participating in the test, said the technology could let passengers leave laptops, liquids and aerosols in their carry-on bags, speeding up the trip through the airport.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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