Wider Laptops Ban to Cost Passengers $1 Billion, Airlines Warn
(Bloomberg) -- The widening of a U.S. ban on carrying electronic devices aboard aircraft to include flights from Europe would cost travelers more than $1 billion, the airline industry’s global lobby group said.
While existing curbs on some services from the Middle East and North Africa affect 350 U.S.-bound flights per week, extending it to the 28 European Union states plus Switzerland, Norway and Iceland would impact 390 a day, or more than 2,500 a week, the International Air Transport Association estimates. That would cost passengers $655 million in lost productivity, $216 million for longer travel times, and $195 million for renting loaner devices on board, it says.
Expanding the moratorium on laptops and tablets would cause “significant” disruption in the trans-Atlantic business market, and might not be the best way of countering any terrorist threat, IATA Chief Executive Officer Alexandre de Juniac said in an interview Wednesday.
“Traveling with your laptop is part of everyday life,” De Juniac told Bloomberg. “We are not sure that this ban is adapted to the threat. We don’t know what is the basis or intelligence that justifies this measure.”
De Juniac commented as U.S. and European Union officials prepared to meet in Brussels to discuss the widening of the ban, which excludes small devices such as phones. The European Commission’s transport spokesman said prior to the gathering that it knows of no evidence that would justify further measures.
Some businesses will also choose to cancel trips rather than hand over laptops loaded with confidential information, according to IATA, which represents 265 airlines around the world. Carriers themselves would incur costs from departure delays, additional handling of hold luggage and liability for damaged or stolen devices, while traveler numbers, fares and ultimately frequencies could all decline, it says. At the same time, flights may become less safe as more lithium battery-powered are stowed in holds.
IATA needs to be told more about U.S. concerns in order to contribute to developing a solution, De Juniac said, adding: “We can provide appropriate advice when it comes to security and protection measures for passengers. What we have said to the U.S. and U.K. authorities and to the Europeans is, please, if you want to take this measure, work very closely with the industry.”
De Juniac wrote to U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and European Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc on Tuesday expressing “serious concern” regarding an expanded ban and detailing the estimated passenger costs, according to a copy of the letter seen by Bloomberg.
If governments agree that wider curbs are necessary they should consider applying measures to enhance security while avoiding the concentration of devices in holds, the communication says. That could include the increased use of explosives detectors and sniffer dogs, closer visual scrutiny of devices, the deployment of behavioral detection officers, and the implementation of trusted-traveler programs to help identify lower-risk passengers, it says.
While there has been some U.S. consultation with airlines that has allowed the industry to at least express its concerns -- in contrast to the “badly implemented” Mideast ban -- more detail needs to be provided, De Juniac, previously CEO of Air France-KLM Group, said.
The Brussels meeting will be attended by Kelly’s deputy Elaine Duke, Bulc and EU Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos, plus representatives of EU states. EC transport spokesman Enrico Brivio said that “all decisions for extra measures must be taken and discussed by national authorities as well,” so that it’s unlikely any final determination will be reached.