Airlines group urges alternatives to extending electronics ban

Claudine Rigal
Mai 18, 2017

European Union and USA transport and security officials will meet in Brussels on Wednesday to discuss expanding the ban on laptops and tablets to include planes from Europe.

The U.S. Transportation and Safety Administration in March imposed a ban on electronic devices aboard inbound flights from 10 airports in eight countries in the Middle East and North Africa.

While the current USA ban affects 350 flights per week, the expansion of the ban to Europe as a whole would affect more than 2,500, estimates IATA. Airlines and aviation experts are concerned that storing a large number of devices containing lithium ion batteries inside a plane's cargo hold could cause a fire, which would be hard to extinguish because fire suppression systems work by depleting an area of oxygen. That missing intelligence is why the bloc has invited the U.S.to share any data they may have, a second European government official said.

Instead, the trade group suggested, regulators could increase the testing of passengers and their bags and electronic devices for traces of explosives, boost the use of explosive-sniffing dogs and deploy more security agents to interrogate travelers.

U.S. authorities banned passengers on direct flights to the USA from 10 airports in 8 countries from bringing laptops, tablets.

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.

Emirates - which was directly impacted by the original electronics ban - said last month it was cutting back on flights to the us because of weak demand. Officials said the ban would only affect flights originating from select airports that do not thoroughly screen carry-on luggage.

Airports and airlines in Europe have reportedly been working on plans for a possible extension of the ban. DHS will need time to update current screening technologies and retrain bomb-sniffing dogs, at which point the ban could potentially be relaxed.

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. Lithium fires don't require oxygen to burn - they are fed by lithium.

Homeland Security officials are concerned ISIS terrorists could place enough explosives inside a laptop to blow a hole in a plane mid-flight, but evade detection on the ground.

Specifically, IATA says a laptop ban on transatlantic flights would cost $655 million United States a year in loss of productive time, $216 million in travel delays at airports and $195 million in reduced well-being.

The conversation followed a letter from the Commission earlier this week urging consultation after reports that Washington was preparing to expand the ban on large personal electronics, including laptops, in cabins. Some airline officials say they would need to hire more staff to impose additional curbs and are anxious about how much advance notice they would have.

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