Trump administration considering laptop bans at 71 more airports

Banning electronic devices on flights from Europe to the United States would be a big deal. Like, really big: The number of flights from Europe to the U.S. -- more than 350 a day -- make it the world's busiest international traffic corridor. SOURCE: CNNMONEY/Shutterstock/Allie Schmitz

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Trump administration is looking at 71 more airports for a potential large electronics ban — but the government is prepared to offer those countries alternatives before a ban is put in place, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said Wednesday.

“Going forward, the plan is to say, ‘These are the new minimum security things that you need to do at your airports, if you do that, then you can fly to the United States directly,'” Kelly told a House committee.

Since a ban on large electronics in carry-on devices went into effect with 10 Middle Eastern and North African airports, the Department of Homeland Security has repeatedly said an expansion of that ban is likely and imminent, including to European airports.

In response to a CNN inquiry, DHS spokesman David Lapan said the agency won’t disclose which airports were under consideration, but they are in Europe and other regions, including the Middle East and North Africa.

DHS has faced a flurry of pushback in response, including meetings with airline representatives and European countries.

Kelly acknowledged those discussions Wednesday, saying he’s pleased with the increased back-and-forth over possible solutions, and he discussed publicly for the first time concerns that clustering so many electronics with lithium ion batteries in the cargo hold could pose additional safety issues. Kelly is coordinating with the Department of Transportation on that concern.

“In an attempt not to be put on the ban list, if you will, many, many countries are leaning forward,” Kelly said.

He said his second in command would be traveling to Malta in coming days to present at a conference what DHS considers “minimum increased security standards” to counteract the threat, “and say, ‘If you meet these standards, we will not ban large electronics in a last point of departure airfield.'”

“This has stimulated a lot more cooperation from our partners overseas,” Kelly said. “We’re also looking at ways that we think we can mitigate the threat — not eliminate it, but mitigate it.”

CNN had previously reported that DHS was considering other options beyond banning electronics outright to deal with the threat.

Kelly reiterated the moves are backed up by intelligence showing a serious threat.

“What brought me to that decision? A very, very really threat, a very sophisticated threat, and not just one, emanating from the Middle East, to knock down one of our airplanes in flight,” Kelly said.