Laptop ban on flights from will not affect Europe to USA travel

The new policy would affect 390 flights daily between the USA and Europe, far more than the 350 flights weekly from the Middle East and North Africa subject to the current rule, which the US announced in March. As it proclaims, European travel is ridiculously lucrative for the airline industry: "The route between Europe and the the busiest worldwide corridor in the world".

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), which represents 265 airlines, wrote to both the US State Department and the European Union on Tuesday to strongly oppose the proposed ban.

Echoing comments made by the Global Business Travel Alliance (GBTA), the IATA argued that some business travelers would cancel trips rather than risk having confidential data on their devices lost because they would have to be stored in an airliner's cargo hold.

U.S. officials had previously said they were looking to extend to Europe a ban on electronics on flights from eight mostly Muslim countries.

There is also the question of the relative safety of keeping in the cargo area a large number of electronics with lithium batteries, which have been known to catch fire.

As U.S. and European Union officials meet to discuss expanding a ban on laptops, tablets and other large electronic devices in carry-on bags to flights from Europe to the United States, airline industry observers have raised concerns.

ACI Europe estimates that 60 percent to 90 percent of travelers carry an electronic device onto their flights, based on a sample of European airports.

The airlines still hope to have a say in how the policy is put into effect at airports to minimize inconvenience to passengers.

The move, which requires passengers to put the devices into checked baggage, came amid concerns that jihadist groups were devising bombs disguised as batteries in consumer electronics items.

There was speculation that the electronic device restrictions now in place on flights from certain Middle East countries, would be extended to include routes from Europe to the US.

However, officials said that other measures are still being considered, though they failed to elaborate on what these measures might be.

The airline industry had feared the widening of the laptop ban would mean longer lines at security, significant delays and confusion at boarding gates during the busy summer period.

The considering expansion of a ban on laptops in airliner cabins on flights not only from Europe but from other regions as well, as objections against any broader restrictions mounted.

"If this ban is expanded, I'm concerned that we are in for a summer of worldwide travel hell", says Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst and principal at Atmosphere Research, writes in an email.

An industry-backed group, the Airline Passenger Experience Association, said the USA government should consider alternatives. The measure was said to have been taken in response to intelligence on terrorist threats from eight mostly Middle Eastern and North African countries. The Federal Aviation Administration has recommended that USA airlines ban such batteries from cargo holds, as has the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) at the United Nations.

  • Jacqueline Ellis