To make its case, the government seems to be relying on several purported benefits of stowing laptops in the luggage hold. First, checked bags undergo additional screening for the presence of explosives. Second, it is possible that luggage in the cargo area could provide some insulation from an explosion. Finally, bombs placed in the cargo area require a sophisticated timing device, unlike simpler explosives that could be set off manually.

But these benefits appear dubious as support for a laptop ban. Carry-on luggage could go through expanded screening, for example, while the notion that checked luggage might make an explosion more survivable is speculative—and such gains might in any case be offset by the dangerous greater vibration found in cargo cabin. Lithium batteries have, after all, been forbidden from the cargo compartment for a reason—and must instead be carried on—to avoid the risk of fire.

And of course, this does little to protect against the risk of an explosive device in the cargo cabin. It just moves the risk to an isolated area of the plane.

Moving the devices to the hold could actually make such devices harder to detect if they slip past airport screening. The exploding lithium batteries in Samsung devices, for example, show how even ordinary fire risks can be greater when passengers are not there to notice a smoking battery in a bag in the overhead compartment.