May 11 (UPI) -- Airline industry representatives met with Department of Homeland Security officials Thursday about possible plans by the agency to widen a ban on laptops and other large electronic devices on passenger flights from Europe.
After the meeting, Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly said no decision had been made whether to institute the expansion to more airports overseas.
"We are continually evaluating threats and if a determination is made that a change to our layers of seen and unseen aviation security measures should be made, as we have done in the past, we will work closely with our private sector and public sector partners to ultimately do what is best for the safety of the traveling public," the Homeland Security Department said in a statement.
In March, the United States and Britain barred devices larger than smartphones from the passenger cabin on all U.S.-bound flights from eight nations in the Mideast and North Africa: Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Kuwait and Turkey. Instead, those devices must be checked in luggage. In all, 10 airports are affected.
U.S. flights don't go nonstop from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen -- other nations within the "threat picture."
In the past, terrorists have used electronic devices to detonate, or attempt to detonate, bombs aboard commercial jets.
An expansion of the ban could potentially add U.S. flights from Western Europe to the list.
The European Union, concerned about the expanded restrictions, called for urgent meetings with U.S. officials to discuss any potential expansion in a letter addressed to Kelly and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.
"We propose that meetings are held as a matter of urgency, both at political and technical level, to jointly assess the risk and review possible common measures," according to a joint letter by EU transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc and Dimitris Avramopoulos, commissioner for migration, home affairs and citizenship. "The Commission is keen to work closely together with the U.S. government on identifying the best possible ways to mitigate any security concerns that may have been identified, including through further testing and improving detection capabilities."
A CNN source said U.S. airlines have asked Homeland Security to find less disruptive alternatives, including additional screening at boarding gates, but "the logistics are very complicated."
Travel industry officials want travelers to be protected but also want to know why new security measures are necessary.
"It is critical that the U.S. government clearly communicate the details of this new policy and the reasons why it's needed, continually reassess it to ensure it remains relevant and effective, and actively seek protocols that neutralize threats while minimizing disruption for legitimate business and leisure travelers," Jonathan Grella, executive vice president for the U.S. Travel Association, said said in a statement Thursday.