Friday, 24 November, 2017

Europe fears expansion of inflight laptop ban

A laptop passes a US Transportation Security Administration checkpoint A laptop passes a US Transportation Security Administration checkpoint. Getty Images
Theodore Harris | 16 May, 2017, 07:16

Officials from the US and the European Union are scheduled to meet this week to talk about plans to expand a USA ban on laptops and tablets to include flights from Europe.

"We therefore reiterate our willingness to pursue constructive dialogue and we propose that meetings are held as a matter of urgency, both at political and technical level, to jointly assess the risk and review possible common measures", wrote Violeta Bulc, EU Transport Commissioner, and Dimitris Avramopoulos, Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship.

The E.U. and the United States will hold talks next week on a possible USA airline ban on carry-on computers amid concerns it could cause massive disruption as the hectic summer travel season gets underway. According to airports association ACI Europe, summer schedules for 2017 at airports in 28 European Union countries show there are 3,257 flights per week to the United States.

The ban, now in effect on flights from 10 airports in the Middle East and North Africa, would affect major US carriers, such as American Airlines, which has a hub and a transatlantic gateway at Philadelphia International Airport.

"It was clear yesterday the decision to expand the ban has been made", an airline industry source said on Friday.

One issue under discussion is how to ensure that lithium batteries in any large collection of devices stored in airplane holds do not explode in midair, officials told Reuters.

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DHS and airline industry officials should have been in a meeting last week, discussing security.

The particular problem is passengers connecting in Europe from flights originating in the Middle East and Africa.

"Evaluated intelligence indicates that terrorist groups continue to target commercial aviation, to include smuggling explosive devices in various consumer items", said a DHS fact sheet that was released when the ban was announced.

While a broadening of the restrictions could "only be a negative" for airlines, making on-time departure more challenging and adding costs for loaner devices, it might at least amount to a "zero-sum game" if applied universally to trans-Atlantic operators, said Mark Simpson, an analyst at Goodbody Stockbrokers in Dublin.

A Delta spokesman said the sign was posted in error by an employee at the airport.

Others worry it could be a safety risk. There are already concerns about the dampening effect President Donald Trump's anti-immigration statements and travel ban attempts are having on tourism.

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