Lawsuit over U.S. airport screener abuses is revived

FILE PHOTO: TSA agents check passengers at a security checkpoint at LaGuardia Airport in New York City, New York, U.S., January 31, 2019. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo

(Reuters) – A federal appeals court on Friday handed a victory to fliers who object to invasive screenings at U.S. airport security checkpoints, saying screeners are not absolutely immune from lawsuits accusing them of abusive conduct.

In a 9-4 decision, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia said Transportation Security Agency (TSA) screeners qualified as “officers of the United States” for purposes of searching passengers “for violations of federal law,” waiving the government’s immunity from some lawsuits.

The decision reversed a July 2018 ruling by a three-judge panel of the same court.

It is a victory for Nadine Pellegrino, a business consultant from Boca Raton, Florida, who with her husband sued for false arrest, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution over a July 2006 altercation at Philadelphia International Airport.

Circuit Judge Thomas Ambro, who wrote the majority opinion, said the decision was unlikely to spur a flood of litigation, given how “the overwhelming majority” of screeners do their jobs professionally “despite far more grumbling than appreciation.”

Writing for the dissenters, Circuit Judge Cheryl Krause accused the majority of subjecting the government to potential “vast liability” despite a lack of congressional intent.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

Catch me if you can: London drone attack lays bare airport vulnerabilities

FILE PHOTO: Passengers wait around in the South Terminal building at Gatwick Airport after drones flying illegally over the airfield forced the closure of the airport, in Gatwick, Britain, December 20, 2018. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

By Paul Sandle

LONDON (Reuters) – A mystery drone operator’s success in shutting down Britain’s second busiest airport for more than 36 hours has exposed the vulnerability of others across the world to saboteurs armed with such cheap and easily available devices.

The incursion at London Gatwick, a brazen game of cat and mouse that those responsible played with Europe’s top military power, underlined how many airports lack the means to catch drone pilots quickly, let alone destroy the unmanned aerial vehicles themselves.

Advances in technology mean drones can be controlled from far away using cameras on board, or even programmed to navigate their own way to targets, and back again.

“There is no silver bullet technology,” said Geoff Moore, business development manager at UK-based Blighter Surveillance Systems, which supplies the U.S. military with anti-drone technology he said was used in Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq.

“Drone technology is evolving quickly, the levels of autonomy are increasing, the ease of flight is increasing to the point where they can be almost ‘fire and forget’ one-button launchable.”

The nightmare at Gatwick, which stranded more than 100,000 people when all flights were grounded, was finally brought under control on Friday after the government ordered the army to use military equipment to protect the site.

Moore said radar systems used by air traffic control were designed to spot commercial aircraft rather than something as small and as close to the ground as a drone. To detect them, airports need specialist radar reinforced by thermal imaging technology. “There are no specific regulations or guidelines on UK airports that mandate that they have to deploy drone detection systems,” he said.

STRAY BULLET DANGER

After detecting the drone, it needs to be disabled by interfering with its navigation system or by simply shooting it down. Authorities at Gatwick were reluctant to use guns because of the danger posed by stray bullets at a crowded airport.

And it is not enough to jam some radio frequencies because modern drones were not always radio-controlled like old-fashioned model aircraft.

Richard Gill, founder and chief executive of Drone Defence, said the fact that the drones at Gatwick were not disabled more quickly indicates that they were not relying on a radio link.

“The drone potentially could have been pre-programmed to cause this disruption and there could have been more than one drone over the period,” he told BBC radio.

Gill said the technology that allowed a drone to be pre-programmed so that it navigates to a point or a number of points and then returns to base to recharge, could be bought from online.

“A motivated individual could potentially carry out this act,” he said. “But it is very sophisticated, it is pre-planned, it is very deliberate what they have done to cause the maximum disruption at a really busy airport in the UK.”

JAMMING DRONES?

Jamming tactics can be risky in an airport where there are other critical communications systems.

Defense systems cannot simply block radio frequencies used to control drones, or GPS signals that the devices use to navigate, because of regulations, Moore said.

“The problem with the UK is there are some regulatory requirements around the use of things like radio frequency jamming – it’s illegal to do that,” he said. “There’s not so many mitigation technologies available in the UK because mostly they are restricted or unavailable.”

ADS, a trade group representing the aerospace, defense and security sectors, said it had asked the government to strengthen police powers, as well as the ability of airport operators and others to deploy electronic counter-measures.

Chief Executive Paul Everitt said UK security companies could help airport authorities with systems that detect, track and identify drones, electronic measures to prevent drone incursion, and with advice about the legal implications of using electronic counter-measures in Britain.

But at Gatwick, the perpetrators were still at large on Friday after the most advanced drone attack yet on a major airport.

(Editing by Guy Faulconbridge and David Stamp)

Australia ramps up airport security after alleged plane bomb plot

Australia Federal Police officers patrol the security lines at Sydney's Domestic Airport in Australia, July 31, 2017, following weekend raids related to a plot against Australia's aviation sector.

By Tom Westbrook

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Stricter screening of passengers and luggage at Australian airports will stay in place indefinitely after police foiled an alleged “Islamic-inspired” plot to bring down a plane, which local media said may have involved a bomb or poisonous gas.

The ramped up security procedures were put in place after four men were arrested at the weekend in raids conducted across several Sydney suburbs.

The men are being held without charge under special terror-related powers.

The Australian Federal Police would not confirm media reports the alleged plot may have involved a bomb disguised in a meat grinder or the planned release of poisonous gas inside a plane.

Australian Federal Police (AFP) Commissioner Andrew Colvin told reporters on Monday that the plot specifics were still being investigated.

“What you are seeing at the moment is making sure that there is extra vigilance, to make sure that we aren’t cutting any corners in our security, to make sure that we are absolutely focused on our security,” Colvin said.

Police on Monday were still searching several Sydney properties for evidence. Pictures showed forensic-specialist officers wearing masks and plastic jumpsuits inside the properties and combing through rubbish bins outside.

Immigration and Border Protection Minister Peter Dutton told reporters in Melbourne on Monday that the alleged plot to down an aircraft could prompt longer-term airport security changes.

“The security measures at the airports will be in place for as long as we believe they need to be, so it may go on for some time yet,” said Dutton.

“It may be that we need to look at the security settings at our airports, in particular our domestic airports, for an ongoing enduring period,” he said.

Dutton advised passengers to arrive at airports three hours before international flights and two hours for domestic flights in order to clear the heightened security.

Inter-state travelers are subjected to far less scrutiny than those traveling abroad with no formal identification checks required for domestic trips.

Passengers at major Australian airports, including Sydney, experienced longer-than-usual queues during the busy Monday morning travel period. A Reuters witness said the queues had disappeared at Sydney Airport by lunch-time.

A source at a major Australian carrier said airlines and airports had been instructed by the government to ramp up baggage checks as a result of the threat, with some luggage searches now being conducted as passengers queued to check in their bags.

Counter-terrorism police have conducted several recent raids, heightening tensions in a country that has had very few domestic attacks.

On Monday, three males pleaded guilty in the New South Wales state Supreme Court to “conspiracy to commit acts in preparation for a terrorist act or acts” in 2014, a court spokeswoman said, while another two pleaded guilty to lesser charges.

Police previously said the men planned an attack on targets which included the AFP headquarters in Sydney, along with civilian targets. The offences are not related to the alleged plane bomb plot.

The 2014 Lindt cafe siege in Sydney, in which the hostage-taker and two people were killed, was Australia’s most deadly violence inspired by Islamic State militants.

 

 

(Reporting by Tom Westbrook in SYDNEY. Additional reporting by Byron Kaye and Jason Reed in SYDNEY and Jamie Freed in SINGAPORE. Writing by Jonathan Barrett; Editing by Michael Perry)

 

U.S. ends controversial laptop ban on Middle East carriers

FILE PHOTO: Baggage and a laptop are scanned using the Transport Security Administration's new Automated Screening Lane technology at Terminal 4 of JFK airport in New York City, U.S., May 17, 2017. REUTERS/Joe Penney/File Photo

By Alexander Cornwell

DUBAI (Reuters) – The United States has ended a four month ban on passengers carrying laptops onboard U.S. bound flights from certain airports in the Middle East and North Africa, bringing to an end one of the controversial travel restrictions imposed by President Donald Trump’s administration.

Riyadh’s King Khalid International Airport was the last of 10 airports to be exempted from the ban, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) confirmed in a tweet late on Wednesday local time.

Middle East carriers have blamed Trump’s travel restrictions, which include banning citizens of some Muslim majority countries from visiting the United States, for a downturn in demand on U.S routes.

In March, the United States banned large electronics in cabins on flights from 10 airports in the Middle East and North Africa over concerns that explosives could be concealed in the devices taken onboard aircraft.

The ban has been lifted on the nine airlines affected — Emirates [EMIRA.UL], Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines <THYAO.IS>, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Royal Jordanian <RJAL.AM>, Kuwait Airways [KA.UL], EgyptAir [EGY.UL] and Royal Air Maroc [RAM.UL] — which are the only carriers to fly direct to the United States from the region.

A ban on citizens of six Muslim-majority countries — Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, — remains in place though has been limited after several U.S. court hearings challenged the restrictions.

“The aviation industry has been trying to come together with a united message to governments and stakeholders about regulation and supporting the industry,” said Will Horton, senior analyst at Australian aviation consultancy CAPA.

“That was dealt a first blow from the travel ban and then a second from the large electronics ban.”

Leading industry group the International Air Transport Association (IATA) criticized the laptop ban as ineffective, as security experts argued that militants could travel to the United States via Europe or elsewhere where the restrictions didn’t apply.

The restrictions were imposed as major U.S. carriers American Airlines Group <AAL.O>, Delta Air Lines <DAL.N> and United Airlines <UAL.N> resumed their campaign against the Gulf carriers Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways by pressuring the new U.S. administration to renegotiate its open skies agreements with the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

However, U.S. and Middle East officials said the campaign and the travel restrictions were not related.

U.S. officials lifted the ban after visiting the 10 airports in Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and Turkey over the past three weeks to confirm new security measures announced last month were being implemented.

On Thursday, the U.S. issued a revised directive to airlines around the world in response to requests that it clarify aviation security measures scheduled to start taking effect this week.

The new requirements include enhanced passenger screening at foreign airports, increased security protocols around aircraft and in passenger areas and expanded canine screening. They affect 325,000 airline passengers on about 2,000 commercial flights arriving daily in the United States, on 180 airlines from 280 airports in 105 countries.

Airlines that fail to meet the new security requirements could face in-cabin electronics restrictions.

The United Kingdom continues to enforce a similar in-cabin ban on electronics ban on flights from some Middle Eastern airports. Those restrictions apply to flights from Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia.

(Reporting by Alexander Cornwell; Editing by Michael Perry)

Emirates, Turkish say laptop ban lifted on U.S. flights

FILE PHOTO - An illustration picture shows a laptop on the screen of an X-ray security scanner, April 7, 2017. REUTERS/Srdjan Zivulovic/Illustration/File Photo

By Alexander Cornwell and Daren Butler

DUBAI/ISTANBUL (Reuters) – The United States has lifted the in-cabin ban on laptops and other large electronic devices on U.S.-bound flights from Dubai and Istanbul, Emirates [EMIRA.UL] and Turkish Airlines <THYAO.IS> said on Wednesday.

The announcements come three days after restrictions were lifted on Etihad Airways’ hub Abu Dhabi International Airport.

The ban was lifted “effective immediately” on Dubai International, the world’s busiest airport for international travel, after new security measures announced by the U.S. last week were implemented, an Emirates spokeswoman said in a statement.

Emirates, the Middle East’s largest airline and which flies to 12 U.S. cities, had blamed travel restrictions imposed by President Donald Trump’s administration for a drop in demand on U.S. flights.

The Dubai-based carrier cut flights to five U.S. cities from May, though has since said demand was starting to return on some routes.

Meanwhile, Turkish Airlines said in a statement that passengers traveling to the United States could now take their laptops onboard.

Chief Executive Bilal Eksi also tweeted that the airline expected a similar ban flights to Britain would soon be lifted.

U.S. and British officials carried out inspections of security measures at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport on Tuesday, the Dogan news agency reported.

There was no immediate comment available from U.S. officials on the lifting of the ban in Dubai and Istanbul.

The U.K. ban does not apply to flights from Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

In March, the United States imposed the ban on flights originating at 10 airports in eight countries — Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and Turkey — to address fears that bombs could be concealed in electronic devices taken aboard aircraft.

The United States announced on June 29 enhanced security measures for flights to the country which require additional time to screen passengers and personal electronic devices for possible explosives.

The new measures, which take effect within three weeks of the announcement, will affect around 325,000 daily passengers traveling on 180 airlines from 280 airports around the world, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Airlines that fail to meet the new security requirements could still face in-cabin electronics restrictions.

Saudi Arabia Airlines (Saudia) expects the ban to lifted on flights from Jeddah and Riyadh by July 19, state news agency SPA reported on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Alexander Cornwell in Dubai, Daren Butler and Can Sezer in Istanbul; Editing by Louise Heavens)

U.S. says expanding laptop ban ‘still on the table’

FILE PHOTO: A TSA official removes a laptop from a bag for scanning using the Transport Security Administration's new Automated Screening Lane technology at Terminal 4 of JFK airport in New York City, U.S., May 17, 2017. REUTERS/Joe Penney/File Photo

By David Shepardson and Julia Fioretti

WASHINGTON/BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is still considering an expansion of a ban on laptops and other large electronics in airline cabins after Secretary John Kelly spoke to European officials on Tuesday, a department spokesman said.

The spokesman, David Lapan, confirmed that Kelly spoke to European Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos and Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc on Tuesday and told them that while no expansion was announced Tuesday that it “is still on the table.”

Lapan said both sides agreed on the need to improve “aviation security globally, including through a range of potential seen and unseen enhancements.”

Lapan said that “Secretary Kelly affirmed he will implement any and all measures necessary to secure commercial aircraft flying to the United States – including prohibiting large electronic devices from the passenger cabin – if the intelligence and threat level warrant it.”

Lapan said no announcement on any expansion was planned this week.

Kelly told “Fox News Sunday” over the weekend that he “might” ban laptops from airplane cabins on all international flights both into and out of the United States.

An EU Commission spokesman said Kelly did not make an announcement about whether the United States would extend the ban to European airports during the “positive and constructive” call.

“Both sides agreed to intensify talks both at technical and political levels to find common solutions to mitigate potential threats to aviation security and work together to step up security requirements,” the spokesman added.

After meetings with airlines and European officials, the Department of Homeland Security has declined to offer a timetable for making a decision and instead said it would be made by Kelly on a review of threats.

One major issue that has been under consideration is the potential safety implications of storing large numbers of laptop batteries in the cargo holds of airliners.

Airline and government officials say there have been discussions about potential alternatives to an expansion of the laptop ban, including enhanced screening, but that no decisions have been made.

In March, the United States announced laptop restrictions on flights originating from 10 airports, including in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, because of fears that a concealed bomb could be installed in electronic devices taken onto aircraft.

Britain quickly followed suit with restrictions on a slightly different set of routes.

The U.S. restrictions cover about 350 flights a week. Extending the ban to all European airports would affect nearly 400 flights a day and cover 30 million travelers.

(Reporting by David Shepardson. Additional reporting by Julia C. Fioretti in Brussels; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

U.S. might ban laptops on all flights into and out of the country

FILE PHOTO - A TSA worker loads suitcases at the checked luggage security screening station at Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, California, U.S. on September 7, 2011. REUTERS/Jonathan Alcorn/File Photo

By Toni Clarke

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States might ban laptops from aircraft cabins on all flights into and out of the country as part of a ramped-up effort to protect against potential security threats, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said on Sunday.

In an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” Kelly said the United States planned to “raise the bar” on airline security, including tightening screening of carry-on items.

“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 U.S. carrier, particularly if it’s full of U.S. people.”

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

Kelly said the move would be part of a broader airline security effort to combat what he called “a real sophisticated threat.” He said no decision had been made as to the timing of any ban.

“We are still following the intelligence,” he said, “and are in the process of defining this, but we’re going to raise the bar generally speaking for aviation much higher than it is now.”

Airlines are concerned that a broad ban on laptops may erode customer demand. But none wants an incident aboard one of its airplanes.

“Whatever comes out, we’ll have to comply with,” Oscar Munoz, chief executive officer of United Airlines <UAL.N>, told the company’s annual meeting last week.

Airlines were blindsided in January when President Donald Trump issued an executive order banning entry for 90 days to citizens from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, sending airlines scrambling to determine who could board and who could not. The order was later blocked in the courts.

In the case of laptops, the administration is keeping the industry in the loop. Delta Air Lines <DAL.N> said in a statement it “continues to be in close contact with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security,” while Munoz applauded the administration for giving the company a “heads up.”

“We’ve had constant updates on the subject,” he said. “We know more than most. And again, if there’s a credible threat out there, we need to make sure we take the appropriate measures.”

MORE SCRUTINY OF CARRY-ONS

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

Kelly said that in order to avoid paying fees for checking bags, people were stuffing them to the point where it was difficult to see through the clutter.

“The more stuff is in there, the less the TSA professionals that are looking at what’s in those bags through the monitors can tell what’s in them.”

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.”

(Reporting by Toni Clarke in Washington; Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu in Washington, David French in New York and Alana Wise in Chicago; Editing by David Gregorio and Peter Cooney)

U.S. decision on expanded laptop ban not imminent: Homeland Security

FILE PHOTO: An illustration picture shows a laptop on the screen of an X-ray security scanner, April 7, 2017. Picture taken April 7, 2017. REUTERS/Srdjan Zivulovic/Illustration

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Homeland Security Department said on Wednesday t2hat no specific timeline had been set for a decision on whether to expand a ban on larger electronics as carry-on luggage for air travel.

DHS spokesman David Lapan told reporters at a briefing there was “nothing imminent” that would require an immediate decision to expand the ban on laptops, which currently applies to 10 mostly Middle Eastern airports. He also said there has been no discussion on expanding the ban to domestic U.S. flights or flights leaving the United States.

In March, the United States announced laptop restrictions on flights originating from 10 airports, including in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, because of fears a bomb could be concealed in electronic devices taken aboard aircraft.

Britain quickly followed suit with restrictions on a slightly different set of routes.

Lapan reiterated that DHS still believed it was “likely” the U.S. ban will be expanded. He said talks with Europe were not a “negotiation” over whether to expand the airports covered because Homeland Security director John Kelly would make any decision based strictly on an analysis of threats.

DHS and European officials held a working group level meeting on Tuesday but no new talks are currently scheduled, Lapan said.

Lapan said the United States would give airports at least the same four-day notice it gave Middle Eastern and other airlines in March before the restrictions took effect, but said it could be longer.

Reuters and other outlets reported on May 11 that the ban on laptops on commercial aircraft was likely to include some European countries.

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

In 2016, 30 million people flew to the United States from Europe, according to U.S. Transportation Department data.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Tom Brown)

United says cockpit door codes may have been published online

FILE PHOTO: A United Airlines aircraft taxis as another lands at San Francisco International Airport, San Francisco, California, U.S., February 7, 2015. REUTERS/Louis Nastro/File Photo

By Ian Simpson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Codes to gain access to United Airlines cockpits may have been made public, the carrier said on Monday, but it stopped short of confirming a report that a flight attendant inadvertently published the codes online in a potential threat to air security.

The airline still could keep its flight decks secure through other measures, Maddie King, a spokeswoman for United Continental Holdings Corp, said in an email. She declined to specify the other safeguards because of security considerations.

“We are working to resolve this issue as soon as possible,” she said.

Citing a pilot who was briefed on the matter, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday that United, the world’s third-largest airline by revenue, had alerted pilots that access codes to unlock cockpit doors were mistakenly posted on a public website by a flight attendant.

Cockpit security emerged as a top priority for airlines in September 2001, when hijackers took control of United and American Airlines planes and crashed them into New York’s World Trade Center and the Pentagon in Washington. A third airliner commandeered by jihadists crashed in a western Pennsylvania field.

The United unit of the Air Line Pilots Association said in a statement that the accidental leak of information showed the need for stronger protections for flight deck doors.

The union has long backed secondary barriers, which it said would cost $5,000 each, and called on Congress to mandate them.

“The installation of secondary barriers on all passenger aircraft is a simple and cost effective way to bolster the last line of flight deck defense,” the union said.

(Editing by Frank McGurty and Bill Trott)

U.S., EU set meeting on airline security, electronic devices

FILE PHOTO - A TSA worker loads suitcases at the checked luggage security screening station at Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, California, U.S. on September 7, 2011. REUTERS/Jonathan Alcorn/File Photo

By David Shepardson and Julia Fioretti

WASHINGTON/BRUSSELS (Reuters) – U.S. and European officials will discuss airline security issues at a meeting in Brussels next week, including possibly expanding the number of airports that ban passengers from carrying electronic devices bigger than cellphones aboard flights, a European Commission spokeswoman said on Friday.

U.S. Homeland Security Department Secretary John Kelly told European ministers by phone Friday the department does not plan to immediately unveil any new measures, the EU said.

U.S. Homeland Security spokesman David Lapan said no final decision had been made on whether to expand the restrictions and he declined to immediately confirm Kelly’s trip to Brussels.

“The U.S. and the EU are on the same side when it comes to fighting terrorism and protecting our security,” Dimitris Avramopoulos, EU commissioner for migration, home affairs and citizenship, said in a statement.

“Our phone call today proved once again the strong cooperation we have on these matters. I look forward to welcoming Mr Kelly and his experts in Brussels next week to continue our positive talks.”

Fears that a bomb could be concealed in electronic devices prompted the United States to announce in March that it would restrict passengers from bringing laptops onto flights originating from 10 airports, including those in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey. Britain followed suit with restrictions on a slightly different set of routes.

Airlines and several countries affected by the electronics ban have pushed for more consultation with American and British regulators after the abrupt introduction of the restrictions took the industry by surprise.

U.S. and European carriers are concerned about the logistics of checking large numbers of devices. Some airline officials say they would need to hire more staff to impose additional curbs, and are worried about how much advance notice they would have.

On Wednesday, Reuters reported that the Trump administration is likely to include some European countries in the in-cabin electronics ban.

Some U.S. and European airlines have been planning for a wider ban, industry officials have told Reuters.

European regulators have warned that placing hundreds of devices in the hold on long-haul flights could also compromise safety by increasing the risk of fire from poorly deactivated lithium-ion batteries.

Kelly briefed members of Congress Thursday and held a meeting with high-level executives of Delta Air Lines <DAL.N>, United Airlines <UAL.N>, American Airlines Group Inc <AAL.O> and Airlines For America, a trade group. A congressional official said Homeland Security was likely to expand the ban soon, but did not say when or to what airports.

The airlines declined to comment, but an airline official said government officials suggested an expansion of the ban was expected soon but it wasn’t certain when.

The trade group said in a statement it appreciated the meeting “to discuss the current state of aviation security.”

The group voted to work with government officials to “minimize the impact on the traveling public by utilizing the risk-based solutions that are the core of our foundation as the safest aviation system in the world.”

In 2016, 30 million people flew to the United States from Europe, according to U.S. Transportation Department data.

According to airports association ACI Europe, summer schedules for 2017 at airports in 28 European Union countries show there are 3,257 flights per week to the United States.

Kelly said last month the ban was likely to expand, given the sophisticated threats in aviation and intelligence findings that would-be attackers were trying to hide explosives in electronic devices.

The predicament is reminiscent of the aviation industry’s response to the 2014 downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17.

At the time, airlines called for greater sharing of information about potential threats to commercial aircraft from conflict zones, even as intelligence agencies expressed reluctance over the risk of revealing sources.

Kelly was scheduled to meet President Donald Trump on Friday but a DHS official said the meeting was about a different topic.

(Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington; Additional reporting by Julia C. Fioretti in Brussels, Victoria Bryan in Berlin and Tim Hepher in Paris; Editing by David Gregorio and Bernadette Baum)