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    US and Europe to discuss broadening airline laptop ban

    A passenger used a mobile device on board a Southwest Airlines flight.
    Marty Katz/The New York Times/file
    A passenger used a mobile device on board a Southwest Airlines flight.

    WASHINGTON — Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly will meet with European Commission officials in Brussels next week to discuss prohibiting passengers bound for America from carrying laptops and other electronic devices in airliner cabins.

    Kelly talked Friday with European commissioners Dimitris Avramopoulos and Violeta Bulc. Even though European airports and airlines are preparing for a ban, no action has been announced as officials continue their talks.

    Avramopoulos told Kelly that the threat affects the EU and the US in the same way and so the response should be made in common, according to a summary of the conversation provided by a European Commission official. Avramopoulos and Bulc wrote to Kelly earlier in the week to seek more collaboration.

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    The Homeland Security Department didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment after the call.

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    Extending electronics restrictions — now in place for travel from some Middle Eastern and African airports — to Europe would disrupt one of the world’s busiest and most lucrative travel markets just ahead of the peak summer tourism season. It could also prevent business passengers’ ability to work on their laptops on long-haul routes across the Atlantic.

    Airline and travel-industry groups are quietly expressing concern about the plan under consideration by US security authorities to broaden the ban.

    Two travel trade groups, the Global Business Travel Association and the US Travel Association, said genuine security risks should be addressed, but also urged the government to be as flexible as possible to minimize disruptions.

    “The question remains whether the targeted application of policies banning personal electronics is an effective measure to reduce the risk of terrorism,” Michael McCormick, executive director of the business-travel group, said in a statement.

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    More than 3,000 flights are expected to arrive in the United States from the European Union each week this summer. The United States is the world’s second-largest market for spending on business travel, following China, according to the GBTA. Global spending for business travel topped $1.3 trillion and is projected to reach $1.6 trillion by 2020, the group said.

    Earlier this week, European Commission officials took the unusual step of writing to Kelly and US Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao urging them to share information about expanded security actions on electronics.

    Kelly met in Washington Thursday with US airline officials to discuss details of a possible expansion. The meeting included representatives of American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and United Airlines, as well as industry trade group Airlines for America.

    US airlines are resigned that a broadened ban on electronics will occur at some point, one industry official said Friday. The person wasn’t authorized to speak about the ongoing talks with government and asked not to be identified.

    The United States announced on March 21 that electronic devices larger than smartphones would be banned from cabins on flights originating from eight countries, impacting global hubs including Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Istanbul.

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    The action, which affects major carriers such as Emirates, Qatar Airways, and Turkish Airlines, resulted from fears that bombs capable of downing an airliner could be hidden in the devices.