Airlines group urges alternatives to extending electronics ban

Emirates - which was directly impacted by the original electronics ban - said last month it was cutting back on flights to the USA because of weak demand.

Among passenger potential costs of a wider laptop ban, the International Air Transport Association, would be $655 million in lost productivity, $216 million from longer travel times, and $195 million for the rental of loaner devices on board.

IATA, which represents 265 airlines, says as many as 65 million people a year travel between Europe and North American on almost 400 daily flights. Business travelers, who prefer to work on their laptops during a flight, are a main source of revenue for airlines.

Now, the Department of Homeland Security is reportedly considering expanding the electronics ban to flights from Europe to the United States. As many as 31 million people travel between Europe and the USA each year, many of whom are business travellers relying on the use of their devices during their flights.

It came from Alexandre de Juniac, director general and CEO of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), and was sent to U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and EC Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc.

European Union officials say they have not been briefed on the threat.

European Union (EU) and United States (US) officials will meet on Wednesday to discuss airline security, including a possible extension of a ban on passengers carrying laptops in aircraft cabins, a European Commission spokesman said.

Washington has already imposed an electronics ban on direct flights from 10 North African and Middle Eastern airports.

The airlines still hope to have a say in how the policy is put into effect at airports to minimize inconvenience to passengers. An official who followed the talks said the ban was "off the table" for now.

The US restrictions, introduced in March, apply to devices "larger than a smartphone" from the cabins of flights from Turkey, Morocco, Jordan, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

Under the proposal, travelers with electronic devices larger than a cell phone would be required to carry them as checked luggage. According to some experts, a bomb in the cabin would be easier to make compared in the cargo.

In March, DHS issued a directive restricting electronic devices larger than a cellphone on flights to the US from eight countries including Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, among others. Tablets and laptops must be stowed in checked baggage.

ACI Europe said that 59 European airports now have direct services to the US with a total of 3,684 weekly flights.

An industry-backed group, the Airline Passenger Experience Association, said the US government should consider alternatives. And in this week's letter, IATA proposes a number of measures that could be taken to reduce the threat without resorting to an all-out ban.

De Juniac acknowledges that state authorities may need to implement security measures in response to "credible threat intelligence". The Federal Aviation Administration has recommended that U.S. airlines ban such batteries from cargo holds, as has the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) at the United Nations.

  • Kyle Peterson