KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
Today, two Middle East-based airlines say their passengers can once again travel to the United States and use their laptops while in flight. In March, the Department of Homeland Security had announced it was banning passengers from bringing large electronic devices in their carry-on bags on flights from 10 airports. NPR's Brian Naylor reports the global airline industry is adapting to the new U.S. standards.
BRIAN NAYLOR, BYLINE: At the time of the March announcement, Homeland Security said it was concerned about intelligence reports that indicated terrorists were continuing to target commercial aviation and aggressively pursuing what the department said were innovative methods to undertake their attacks. That included smuggling explosives in various consumer devices larger than a cellphone such as laptops, tablets and cameras. Last week, Homeland Security secretary John Kelly announced new standards for security at international airports with direct flights to the U.S.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
JOHN KELLY: It is time that we raised the global baseline of aviation security. We cannot play international whack-a-mole with each new threat. Instead we must put in place new measures across the board to keep the traveling public safe and make it harder for terrorists to succeed.
NAYLOR: Those measures, Kelly said, included enhanced screening of electronic devices, more thorough passenger vetting and better use of explosives-detecting dogs at those airports. Today Turkish Airlines based in Istanbul and Emirates based in Dubai said their passengers can once again use their laptops on U.S.-bound flights. Former Homeland Security official Bennet Waters says the announcements mean the U.S. pressure is working.
BENNET WATERS: If in fact these airlines are coming off the list, one could fairly conclude that they have met some of the additional measures that DHS laid out for them.
NAYLOR: The announcements by Emirates and Turkish Airlines follow a similar one by Abu Dhabi-based Etihad airlines that the laptop ban had been lifted on its flights to the U.S. The tighter security requirements that airports must meet to allow passengers to carry on the larger devices affect more than 300,000 daily passengers at 280 airports around the world. At most of them, the new standards are already in place or soon will be. But Kelly said airports not in compliance could expect consequences.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
KELLY: Inaction is not an option. Those who choose not to cooperate or are slow to adopt these measures could be subject to other restrictions, including a ban on electronic devices on aircraft or even a suspension of their flights into the United States.
NAYLOR: In fact, in May, Kelly warned that virtually all incoming international flights to the U.S. could be subject to a laptop ban. And former DHS official Waters, now with the Chertoff Group, says the laptop ban is not related to the president's travel ban on people from six majority-Muslim nations.
WATERS: I don't think that this is focused on any one airline or any one region of the world. I really do think it is an intelligence-based set of decisions that Secretary Kelly is putting forward in an effort to raise the global footprint against these explosives.
NAYLOR: And Waters says getting aviation security right is a complicated process. Brian Naylor, NPR News, Washington.
(SOUNDBITE OF COYOTE SONG, "ELECTRIC SUNBURST") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.