US Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly.
US Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly.

The United States might ban laptops from aircraft cabins of all flights into and out of the country, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly said on Sunday.

In an interview on Fox News on Sunday, Kelly said the US plans to "raise the bar" on airline security, including tightening screening of carry-on items.

Kelly said the move would be part of a broader effort to tighten airline security to combat what he called "a real sophisticated threat."

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 US carrier, particularly if it's full of US people.

But in an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press" later, Kelly specified that despite ongoing and persistent concerns, "we have no specific threats right now."

Kelly made his remarks during the Memorial Day weekend, one of the busiest travel periods in the United States, at a time when the bombing at a concert in Manchester, England has raised concerns that further attacks — possibly involving explosives packed in electronic devices — may be planned.

He said no decision has been made as to the timing of any ban.

Other airline precautions

Among the enhanced measures will likely be tighter screening of carry-on items to allow Transport Security Administration (TSA) agents to discern problematic items in tightly stuffed bags.

The TSA has begun testing certain new procedures at a limited number of airports, requiring people to remove additional items from carry-on bags for separate screenings.

Asked whether the government would expand such measures nationwide, Kelly said: "We might, and likely will."

On Friday Kelly told Fox News that if most people knew the extent of the security threat to the United States some people would "never leave the house."

Expanding previous restrictions

In March the government imposed restrictions on large electronic devices in aircraft cabins on flights from 10 airports, including the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Turkey.

A laptop ban could disrupt travel between Europe and America. Some 3,250 flights a week are expected this summer between European Union countries and the United States, according to aviation industry figures.

If put in place, a laptop ban would greatly expand on a rule Kelly announced in March banning electronic devices larger than a smartphone from the cabins of flights from 10 airports in the Middle East and North Africa.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies