Published: Tue, May 23, 2017
Markets | By Noel Gibbs

Airlines group urges alternatives to extending electronics ban

The comments from the IATA chief, who was previously CEO of Air France-KLM Group, come as US and European Union officials prepare to meet in Brussels Wednesday to discuss the widening of the ban, which also covers tablets and games consoles while excluding smaller devices such as phones.

The White House has defended President Trump's decision to discuss an ISIS terror threat related to the use of laptops on aircraft with Russian officials.

Expanding the ban to flights from Europe could cost travelers $1.1 billion a year in lost productivity and added travel time, the International Air Transport Assn., which represents 265 airlines worldwide, said in a Tuesday letter to U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly and Violeta Bulc, the European Commission's transport commissioner.

The proposed measure has spooked the airline industry, as it could have affected up to 65 million travelers between Europe and the United States, and airline travel to the U.S. was already down earlier in the year.

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

The original ban on mostly Middle Eastern flights, which Britain also partially adopted and is being considered by Australia, focused on certain countries because their equipment to screen carry-on bags is not as effective as machines in the USA, analysts say.

Lapan said talks would consider the "scale and scope" of what the laptop ban might entail. "We are very much concerned", EU Home-Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos told reporters in Strasbourg.

"IATA fully acknowledges that security remains the primary responsibility of States, and we understand that the U.S., the United Kingdom and other States have compelling reasons to mandate the implementation of counter-measures in response to credible threat intelligence", he wrote.

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"And surely there must be a way to screen electronic equipment effectively at airport checkpoints", he said. European Union officials have also asked the United States to share its intelligence, saying they don't see evidence for restrictions.

Steve Landells, a safety expert at the British Airline Pilots Association, said there was a greater risk of lithium battery fires if larger devices were kept in an aircraft's hold.

The IATA also said the measure would mark a dramatic expansion of the ban now in place, impacting an estimated 390 flights a day.

The European Union has demanded urgent talks with the United States over a possible extension to some European countries of a USA ban on airline passengers taking laptops into cabins, saying any security threats faced are common. Out of 31 million passengers departing European airports for the 2016, 3.5 million connected from flights coming from outside Europe.

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Emirates, the Middle East's largest airline, this month cited the ban on electronics as one of the reasons for an 80 percent drop in profits previous year.

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