Dem calls for hearing on flight laptop ban – The Hill

A House Democrat urged Congress on Tuesday to explore the potential safety risks associated with a new policy banning laptops on the cabins of certain U.S.-bound flights.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) asked top lawmakers on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to hold a hearing on the dangers of storing a large number of laptops and other large electronics underneath aircraft, which is expected to occur more as passengers are now banned from carrying those devices onto certain flights.

There was also a laptop fire on a JetBlue flight last week, which has further fueled concern over the idea.

“We have all seen the videos of devices using lithium ion batteries burst into flames. Experts have pointed out that fires caused by lithium batteries are more easily detected within the cabin of an aircraft as opposed to within the cargo hold,” Norton wrote.

“We need to learn more about the threats electronics and lithium batteries pose on board aircraft, whether in carry-ons or stowed in checked luggage.”

The letter comes as the Trump administration considers expanding the laptop ban to include European flights. The security protocol currently only applies to select airports in the Middle East and Africa.

White House officials maintain that the security measure is needed because terrorists are pursuing innovative methods to smuggle bombs onto commercial flights.

But European officials and travel advocates have raised concerns that storing more lithium ion battery-powered devices could pose its own set of safety threats if they catch fire in the cargo hold. They are urging the administration to consider alternative options to the laptop ban.

A Department of Homeland Security spokesman told reporters last week that a final decision has not yet been made, adding that the JetBlue fire would not impact the department’s decision.

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