Published: Fri, May 19, 2017
World | By Carl Welch

The Laptop Ban - Ban It or Expand It?

The airline industry is urging regulators in United States of America and Europe to reconsider a plan to expand the current ban on some electronic devices on U.S. -bound flights.

The International Air Transport Association, or IATA, which represents 265 airlines, wrote to both the European Union and the U.S. State Department on Tuesday to oppose the proposed ban, which it said would deeply affect the economy and cause the equivalent of $1.1 billion in lost time to passengers.

The US has been considering increasing the number of airports affected by the ban to possibly include some in Europe, prompting the European Union to hold a meeting of aviation security officials last week.

The original ban, put in place in March, banned large electronics, like laptops, in airline cabins on US - and UK-bound flights from several predominantly Muslim nations.

"Participants provided insight into existing aviation security standards and detection capabilities, as well as recent security enhancements on both sides of the Atlantic related to large electronic devices placed in checked baggage".

A proposal to ban laptops in cabin on flights between Europe and North America isn't even official, but critics already say it would cost travellers $1 billion U.S. a year and be a nightmare to implement.

"Beyond the immediate operational impact, we are concerned about the consequences that such a ban would have on demand for transatlantic air travel - and ultimately connectivity between Europe and the United States", ACI Europe director Olivier Jankovec added in a statement. Officials have said other measures are being considered. "If the ban was no going ahead it is a great result and a lot of credit should go to the European side for negotiating, but at the moment it is not so certain", the source said.

Critics of the ban note that moving dozens - if not hundreds - of laptops from inside cabins into the plane's cargo hold presents a safety threat of its own, as they contain lithium ion batteries, which have been known to catch fire. The initial ban on passengers bringing large electronics devices into the cabin hit hardest at Middle Eastern airlines.

For airlines, costs would increase due to extra handling of cargo hold baggage, departure delays due to increased baggage screening measures, liability for theft or damage to checked devices and a potential reduction in frequencies based on lower yields from business customers.

The Airports Council International (ACI) trade association released a statement claiming that the new European ban will likely affect 3,684 flights each week arriving in the USA from 59 airports on the continent. British Airways would also suffer.

Both IATA and ACI Europe are urging information sharing between Europe and the US, as well as more controlled, short-term measures, instead of an extended and far-reaching ban.

For passengers, the logistics of a widespread electronics ban could be complicated: Emirates, which has adapted to comply with the ban on flights to and from the Middle East, has passengers gate-check their electronics.

European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said Monday that the high-level talks are "to jointly assess any new threats and work toward a common approach to address them".

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