Taking a cue from the US and the UK, Australia is seriously considering banning laptops and other big electronic devices into the cabins of some international flights. The move reflects a change in the country's previous stance on the ban.
The government was "looking at it very closely" and also seeking expert advice on the matter, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said on Tuesday (16 May). He added that a formal announcement would be made by the transport ministry in due course if any such decision is taken.
When the US announced the laptop ban in March, the Australian government said it had no plans to follow suit. However, on Tuesday, Transport Minister Darren Chester defended the changed stance, saying "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".
John Coyne, a national security analyst with the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, explained that the US' laptop ban move was triggered from intelligence on a specific threat, but Australia appears to have no such risk at the moment.
"If there's no specific threat or risk, then they've got to carefully examine it - is the measure just going to cost hundreds of millions of dollars and not have any fundamental additional impact on security?" Coyne was quoted as saying by the Sydney Morning Herald.
"If the government has specific intelligence indicating a specific threat or risk in relation to laptops [on flights] to and from Australia, then as sure as I'm sitting here they would ban them from being carried," he added, noting that there is a need to continuously review airport screening processes amid emerging new ways terrorist groups use to bring explosives on flights.
Aviation safety consultant Geoffrey Askew told the paper that the logistics of imposing the ban "would be significant and the interruption ... would be enormous".
"You would have to introduce some measure at screening points where laptops could be taken from passengers and taken to the hold," he added.
Meanwhile, the US is now considering expanding the existing ban to flights from Europe that could impact United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and American Airlines Group among others. The current ban applies to flights coming to the US from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Lebanon and Turkey.
The UK ban applies to all inbound flights from Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia.