Australia considers Trump-inspired electronics ban on airlines

Some Gulf airlines have implemented programs where passengers can loan laptops and iPads on-board. Source: Shutterstock

AUSTRALIA is mulling the idea of introducing a electronics ban on certain international flights following the Trump-ordered ban on United States flights implemented in March.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told ABC News the government was “looking at it very closely”.

“We are taking into account all of the information and advice we’re receiving internationally and we’re working very closely with our partners,” he said.

“In due course, any announcements will be made formally though the Transport Minister.”

Turnbull’s comments also came shortly after it was revealed US President Donald Trump had leaked highly classified information to Russian officials about an Islamic State (IS) threat related to the use of laptops on aircraft.

While the US has currently banned electronics on domestic flights, the Department of Homeland Security is also considering banning laptops and other large electronic devices from carry-on bags on flights between Europe and the US, according to The Washington Post.

SEE ALSO: United Nations seeks global solution to airline laptop ban 

Turnbull hasn’t yet commented on whether his consideration to ban electronics has anything to do with Trump’s disclosing of the information, but has said he maintains “great confidence” in Australia’s alliance with the US.

“It is the bedrock of our national security and it was reinforced yet again when Mr Trump and I met in New York just a few days ago,” he said.

Australia’s Transport Minister Darren Chester said:

“Australia had a comprehensive and strong security system in place, with the safety of the traveling public a priority.”

“The government continuously monitors shifts in the threat environment domestically and overseas to ensure we have the best security arrangements in place to meet the challenges we face,” he told the Australian Associated Press.

Recently, Australia enforced stricter security measures for travelers on Gulf Airlines coming into the country.

The security measures included random “explosive detection screenings” that will take place at Australian boarding gates. The screenings will target passengers flying in from a handful of Middle Eastern cities such as Doha, Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

SEE ALSO: Australia to randomly screen travelers from the Middle East for explosives 

Chester told Reuters: “Explosive detection screening will be conducted for randomly selected passengers and their baggage. Checks may also include targeted screening of electronic devices.”

An Emirates spokesman told  passengers traveling from Dubai International Airport to Australia should allow more time for clearance at the gate.

In response to the ban, some Gulf airlines have implemented programs where passengers can loan laptops and iPads on-board.

However, with more travelers checking in their electronic devices, it brings to light the risk of fires in the aircraft hold.

A report on Bloomberg noted electronics in the cabins of some overseas flights could raise safety concerns for the aircraft, including the risk of those devices’ lithium-based batteries to catch fire in the baggage hold.

Global Programs vice-president Greg Marshall told Bloomberg: “It’s potentially a transfer of consequential risk. We’re going to see large numbers of these devices carried in the cargo hold of aircraft that would otherwise have been in the cabin.”

The report said while the electronics ban was introduced to combat fears of terrorism, the risk of highly volatile batteries combusting mid-air should also not be taken lightly.

A commentary on Traveller attested to the dangers of lithium-powered batteries in aircraft hold. The piece said: “If Australia was to emulate the ban, it would conceivably need to review, amend or withdraw legislation prohibiting lithium batteries in aircraft luggage and cargo holds.

“A fire in such a part of an aircraft could be just as catastrophic as any terrorist attack governments worldwide are so desperate to thwart.”

SEE ALSO: Wave of tighter security on electronics hits aviation industry