< PrevNext > John Kelly, Former Homeland Security Secretary Laptop Prohibitor By Michael B. Baker / December 14, 2017 / Contact Reporter Share John Kelly's stint as U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security is the shortest of anyone appointed to that position since its creation in 2002. And yet, during those six months, he presided over a department decision that threw corporate air travel into an uproar.In March, DHS announced a ban on laptops and other large electronic devices onboard U.S.-bound flights from 10 airports, largely in the Middle East and North Africa. The U.K. introduced a similar ban at the same time, but the U.S. ban was the only one to include the hubs of the big three Gulf carriers—Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha—all of which handle large volumes of global corporate travel. Though the carriers rushed to find ways to accommodate travelers, such as providing loaner laptops, corporate travelers suddenly faced putting laptops, along with all the sensitive data they contained, in their checked luggage.In response, buyers had to adjust their own policies, many setting up their own loaner-laptop programs at headquarters to prevent travelers from checking their devices or diverting travel through hubs that did not have the ban. The International Air Transport Association reported a tangible hit in demand to the Middle East as the ban endured. We cannot play international whack-a-mole with each new threat. Instead, we must put in place new measures across the board." Airline executives who were privy to some of the intelligence that led to the ban cautioned it could spread to flights from Europe and beyond. Shortly before Kelly's departure to become President Donald Trump's chief of staff, the DHS ultimately introduced another remedy: new security requirements, including heightened screening of personal electronic devices, for all inbound flights to the U.S. Over the following months, each of the affected airports saw its laptop ban reversed as they adapted security capabilities to satisfy the DHS's requirements."We cannot play international whack-a-mole with each new threat," Kelly said upon announcement of the requirements. "Instead, we must put in place new measures across the board to keep the traveling public safe."Though short-lived, the bans brought to the forefront the needs for comprehensive policies for traveling with electronic devices, along with data encryption and protection. After all, travelers still could be asked to turn over or unlock a laptop at a security checkpoint, independent of the bans.