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IATA Voices Concern Over Electronics Ban Between Europe and U.S.

The body says that an outright ban on electronics in the cabin could have a significantly detrimental impact on passengers as well as the wider global travel and business industries.

As the U.S. mulls a possible ban on electronic devices on flights between America and Europe, the global travel industry expressed its deep reservations over the potential impact of any such prohibition. Earlier this week, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) outlined the costs of a ban to both passengers and the wider economy in a letter to John F. Kelly, the United States Secretary of Homeland Security. The document was issued just as American and European officials met to discuss aviation security in Brussels on Wednesday.

Looking at air passenger traffic between the 28 member states of the European Union (EU) as well as Switzerland, Norway and Iceland and the U.S., IATA says that the ban, in terms of money alone, could cost $1.1 billion per year. Flight Chic gives an in-depth analysis of the potential cost of the ban, which would see electronic devices larger than a cellphone prohibited from the cabin.

For its part, IATA believes that lost productivity, increased travel time and more complex security procedures will have a detrimental impact on passengers as well as the wider travel and business industries.

In the letter to Secretary Kelly, a copy of which was also sent to Violeta Bulc, the EU’s Commissioner for Transport, IATA director and CEO Alexandre de Juniac stated that he was writing on behalf of the body and its member carriers “to express our serious concern regarding the negative impact any extension of the ban on personal electronic devices in the aircraft cabin will have on airline passengers, commercial aviation and the global economy.”

A copy of the letter, reproduced by the website, also offered alternatives to a total ban on electronics. De Juniac re-iterated that while safety and security was a top priority for IATA, the body is encouraging “all regulators to weigh the impacts of such measures on the passenger, the economy and the airlines” before implementing an outright ban on electronics between the U.S. and Europe.

[Photo: Shutterstock]

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KRSW May 19, 2017

Completely ignoring the major inconvenience it would be to travelers, from a pure safety perspective, banishing electronic devices to the cargo area makes *NO* sense. Current US DOT and IATA regulations require large Lithium batteries (like those used in laptops, phones, and tablets) be carried in the *passenger cabin* due to these devices' propensity to malfunction causing overheating and fires. The logic in that decision was that if a device were to malfunction in the cabin, it's more likely to be noticed and brought to the attention of the flight crew which could then handle the situation. We've seen multiple instances of phones (not just Samsung Note 7s), headphones, laptops, and other devices overheating and catching fire inside airline cabins over the past year. If this were to happen with the devices in the cargo hold, there would be nothing a crew could do about it. ETOPS was designed with engine failures in mind, not cargo hold fires. Not to wave the 9/11 flag, but rather to focus on what happens to metal structures in prolonged fires, take a look at the WTC towers. Both towers withstood the impact. It was the prolonged fire that lead to their demise -- and those were static structures, not a pressure vessel flying at 500mph. Pan Am Flt#103 over Lockerbie wasn't taken down by electronics inside the cabin...

EU-US May 18, 2017

Ian, you are judging an overall situation based on your personal one. I for one can and love working on flights, and that time (especially on transatlantic flights, where with the connections, basically I spend the entire day in the air or in lounges). But that's not what bothers me deeply about this idea. I NEVER, ever, ever checked in my computer (I have a really expensive top of the line MacBook Pro for my work, with literally my life's work on it - yes, of course it is backed up in multiple places, so I can never lose data, but imagine arriving to a conference or important client meeting without any of your work or data or work tools because the airline lost or broke your computer - they break things all the time, and I would be HORRIFIED to check in my $3000 laptop every time I fly. As a frequent flayer, I almost exclusively travel with carry on only, because I get out of the airport at least half an hour earlier on arrival and I know that I will have my stuff when I arrive and don't have the stand at the carousel wondering whether my luggage will arrive or not, did it make it on my flight or may be delayed, and if it does arrive, in what shape... Not to mention that this would also mean that when you connect, your laptop is not with you... so you can go to a lounge if you have a longer connection but instead of what I do now (use my computer) I would be wasting time reading magazines...? I think the productivity loss if this ban is ever implemented would be in the billions of dollars. The potential consequences are too many to even comprehend, and far reaching. Just to mention another one: everyone who travels knows how checked in luggage is handled. There is a reason airline liability and insurance amounts are limited... airlines tell you that "if it's valuable take it on board with you, because if we break it, we won't pay for it. But they won't be able to say that if laptops are banned... there are two possible scenarios: either airlines would be off the hook for any damage they may cause, and then there would be potentially tens of millions of dollars of damage caused to passengers every year by airlines breaking expensive computers, or the airlines would be on the hook for anything they break and in that case, it would cost them tens of millions of dollars (and we all know who will then end up paying for that). I hope regulators will have some common sense and won't let this insanity pass. It is the worst idea I have seen in aviation history and makes ZERO sense the way it is proposed. If bombs could be hidden in electronics larger than a cell phone, then they can be hidden in ANYTHING larger than a cell phone - so why not just ban carry on luggage altogether? :-( Why not ban all but form fitting clothing? Hey, while they are at it, they could ban all luggage completely, making flying "100% safe"... with malls at all American airports to sell you everything on arrival.

IanFromHKG May 18, 2017

I always get a bit sceptical when I see these sorts of statements about lost productivity. I don't know about other readers, but I personally find that if for some reason I can't work on a flight, I somehow have to make up the work at some other time - I don't just abandon the work and leave it undone. So why do these sorts of statistics always assume that the missed work is lost and gone forever? The only true economic loss I can identify that ties in with that particular issue is possible payment of overtime. Sadly, I'm not eligible for that....