Published: Fri, May 19, 2017
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Europe Escapes US Flights Laptop Ban

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

Expanding the ban could cost $1.1 billion a year in lost productivity, travel time and "passenger well-being", Alexandre de Juniac, director general and CEO of the group, which represents 265 airlines, wrote in a letter to Bulc and U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly.

This week's meeting took place following news that the USA would extend its ban on in-flight laptops and other large electronics on flights coming from Europe.

In March, the U.S. imposed a similar ban on some 10 airports from eight countries around the Middle East and parts of north Africa, with the United Kingdom also taking similar measures.

The moves come ahead of a planned meeting this week in Brussels between U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials and their opposite numbers at the European Commission.

According to airports association ACI Europe, there are 3,684 weekly flights being operated between European airports and the United States.

The prospect has reportedly alarmed European Union officials, who want to know more about any new threats and the disruption such a ban would create. But given how volatile the White House has been in recent months, it's unclear whether it is really being nixed or what other measures might be put in place to protect passengers. That would have affected a massive number of travelers, since about 65 million passengers per year travel between Europe and North America on some 400 daily flights. Moreover, almost half of all business travelers said in a recent survey they want to stay connected in flight so they can get work done.

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After Homeland Security implemented the ban on incoming flights from the Middle East in March it did not clarify if the laptop ban would be extended to other countries, but its site noted "as threats change, so too will TSA's security requirements". The initial ban on passengers bringing large electronics devices into the cabin hit hardest at Middle Eastern airlines.

Homeland Security officials say they are concerned a radicalized European citizen who may have traveled to Islamic State territory might try to plant a bomb on a USA -bound plane.

Instead, IATA proposed airports introduce more in-depth pre-flight screening rather than forcing passengers to give up their devices.

At the Delta area of the Cincinnati airport, a sign warned passengers that beginning Friday on flights returning to the USA any electronic devices other than a cellphone would have to be placed in checked baggage.

"These new rules could solve one problem while creating another", the British Airline Pilots' Association said in a statement this week, cautioning against a fire risk.

"We do not claim to be genius", he said, "but we claim to be the specialist of transporting people and goods".

De Juniac added that the airline industry recognizes "that the USA, the United Kingdom and other states have compelling reasons to mandate the implementation of countermeasures in response to credible threat intelligence".

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