Four months ago, President Trump banned air travelers from eight Muslim-majority countries from carrying laptops and other electronics in their carry-on bags, forcing travelers to put laptops under the plane.
This immediately sparked outcry from aviation experts worldwide, who warned that the real danger is not terrorists — it is the defective batteries exploding in laptops carried by millions of ordinary travelers.
Now even U.S. safety agencies are warning that laptops pose less of a threat when they are carried on-board instead of under the plane. They will be cancelling the laptop ban and allowing passengers from Muslim-majority countries to bring laptops in their carry-ons.
In a notice issued earlier this month, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Office of Hazardous Materials Safety said:
Devices containing lithium metal or lithium ion batteries (laptops, smartphones, tablets, etc.) should be transported in carry-on baggage and not placed in checked baggage.”
It is not hard to understand why. If the laptop explodes in the cabin, flight crews can put out the fire — but if the laptop explodes under the plane, the fire will spread to luggage jam-packed in cargo.
The FAA is not banning laptops from checked baggage. Instead, the FAA recommends that electronic devices going under the plane in the cargo area “should be completely powered down to the OFF position (they should not be left in sleep mode), protected from accidental activation, and packed so they are protected from damage.”
Last month, the FAA re-visited the rules banning laptops in carry-on bags for international flights. After concluding that electronics were safer in the passenger cabin than in the cargo hold, the U.S. modified its security protocol to require “enhanced security” and the use of carry-on bag screeners that can more easily detect a potential bomb.