June 13, 2017 / 10:21 PM / 2 months ago

U.S., Europe seek measures to avert expanded airline laptop ban

FILE PHOTO: A traveler takes her laptop out of her bag for scanning at Terminal 4 of JFK airport in New York City, U.S., May 17, 2017.Joe Penney/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Department of Homeland Security will meet European officials this week to discuss new security measures that could prevent the U.S. government expanding a ban on laptops beyond flights from ten airports primarily in the Middle East.

David Lapan, a DHS spokesman, said in a briefing Tuesday that he would not disclose specific security enhancements but said they were "in the way of information sharing, passenger information, detection types of steps."

Homeland Security chief John Kelly told a congressional panel last week he was looking at an additional 71 airports in Europe, Africa and the Middle East for a possible expansion of the ban.

A European airline industry official told Reuters the United States had suggested possible enhancements including explosive trace detection screening, increased vetting of airports' staff and additional detection dogs.

U.S. restrictions on laptops announced in March, including on flights originating from airports in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, came amid fears a concealed bomb could be installed in electronic devices taken aboard aircraft. Britain followed suit with restrictions.

Any expansion of the ban could impact U.S. carriers such as United Airlines (UAL.N), Delta Air Lines Inc (DAL.N) and American Airlines Group (AAL.O).

Lapan said the United States would not present a definitive list to Europeans to avoid a ban but rather options under consideration. He added that it "remains to be seen" if enhanced security measure could allow reversal of existing airports under the ban.

DHS officials are attending the meeting in Malta "to present what we think are the minimum increased security standards ... and present those to people to say if you meet these standards we will not ban large electronics," Kelly said.

Reuters and other media outlets reported in early May that an expansion was likely, but more than a month later, the U.S. government has offered no timetable for making a decision. Lapan said no decision was expected this week.

Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington Additional reporting by Julia Fioretti; Editing by Chris Sanders and Andrew Hay

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