Talks on airplane laptop ban end with no ban, more talks

In March, the United States announced laptop restrictions on flights originating from 10 airports including in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey because of fears that a concealed bomb could be installed in electronic devices taken onto aircraft.

In April, we first reported that U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies believed that ISIS and other terrorist organizations had developed new ways to place explosives in laptops and other electronic devices to evade airport security screening methods.

Aviation officials in the European Union and USA are meeting on Wednesday to discuss aviation security, and IATA head Alexandre de Juniac called on officials in an open letter to consider alternatives to a ban, such as methods to detect traces of explosives at airport security checkpoints, better training of staff and use of behavioural detection officers.

DHS and European Union officials issued a statement promising to meet again next week, with the aim to "further assess shared risks and solutions for protecting airline passengers, whilst ensuring the smooth functioning of global air travel".

Homeland Security previously said the electronics ban involving Middle Eastern airports was put in place because usa officials were "concerned about terrorists' ongoing interest in targeting commercial aviation".

A Europe-wide ban could affect well over 3,000 direct flights made every week to the U.S., likely causing disruptions.

The Australian Government may follow United States' lead in banning laptops and other electronic items on flights.

European officials say they received little advance notice of a possible expansion of the ban before news reports about the possibility surfaced last week.

The electronics ban being considered by the US on flights to and from Europe could cost $1.1 billion - and that's just for passengers.

"Businesses will cancel trips rather than risk having laptops checked due to risk of confidential information", IATA chief executive officer Alexandre de Juniac said in a letter to U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and his European counterpart Violeta Bulc. Some airlines told the AP that despite the recent news, they believe it's a matter of time until such a ban is instituted.

In February, the Federal Aviation Administration warned that carrying lithium batteries in the cargo hold of a plane heightens the "risk of a catastrophic hull loss". "How many attempts have we seen at bringing down a commercial airliner underwear bombs, using liquids, using (printer) cartridges", he said.

IATA estimates that banning electronics on flights from Europe to the USA would cost travelers more than $1 billion. At the same time, flights may become less safe as more lithium battery-powered devices are stowed in holds.

  • Larry Hoffman