IATA warns European Union and United States authorities on electronics ban expansion

European airline stocks continued to underperform broader markets Wednesday amid speculation that USA security officials are preparing to expand a ban on carrying laptop computers inside the cabin to include trans-Atlantic flights from the Continent that could cost passengers as much as US$1 billion.

International Air Transport Association CEO Alexandre de Juniac wrote a letter to U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and European Commission Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc on Tuesday expressing "serious concern regarding the negative impact" an expansion of the ban would have on passengers, airlines and the global economy.

US President Donald Trump's plan to extend a ban on laptops and tablets in flight cabins to Europe may have been reportedly dropped following a meeting between European Union and US officials.

And among the reasons that's the case has to do with the feedback that industry groups gave the controversial plan, which would extend an existing ban on large electronic devices in many Middle Eastern and North African countries. It would be an expansion to an existing U.S. laptop ban on flights from ten Muslim-majority countries.

While the proposed ban is still in the proposal stage, it could go into effect at any time.

The decision to extend a laptop ban on flights to Europe is "off the table", a US official says.

USA and European officials will discuss Wednesday, May 17, 2017, plans to broaden a US ban on in-flight laptops and tablets to include planes from Europe.

The decision to take no action (at present) follows strong lobbying from several quarters, including ACI Europe [see: http://www.trbusiness.com/regional-news/international/aci-warns-that-that-trust-may-be-compromised-on-security/120086] which represents more than 500 airports in 45 European countries, handling 90% of all commercial air traffic - equivalent to plus-1.9bn passengers.

Banning large electronics would create logistical chaos on the world's busiest corridor of air travel. At the same time, flights may become less safe as more lithium battery-powered devices are stowed in holds. "We don't know the basis of the intelligence that would justify this measure".

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.

Apparently, the decision not to implement the ban came because European Union officials were not thrilled with the idea and wanted to discuss - leading to a series of meetings. European transportation guidelines have generally suggested carrying on laptops and other electronic devices with lithium batteries, which can combust during flights if packed together tightly. "Given the volumes involved, extending the current US ban to European airports would result in significant disruptions, with implications on various aspects on airport and airline operations", the ACI stated.

  • Zachary Reyes