A wider personal electronics ban could cost flyers $1 billion

WHAT IS PROPOSED? Laptops and other large electronic devices such as tablets would be banned from the cabins of flights coming to the United States from some countries in Europe.

But it is understood that during a four-hour meeting between European Union and USA officials on Wednesday, there was no talk of applying the so-called "laptop ban" to flights from Europe.

A senior U.S. administration official said there was no time frame for making a decision on the extension of the ban but U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly was "currently considering next steps".

U.S. authorities banned passengers on direct flights to the U.S. from 10 airports in 8 countries from bringing laptops, tablets.

In a joint-statement released after the meeting, the European Commission said that both sides had exchanged information on the evolving threats to aviation security and would meet again in Washington next week.

However, EU officials were alarmed over reports that the United States was planning to extend the ban to all flights from Europe and called an urgent meeting with U.S. officials May 17.

The decision to take no action (at present) follows strong lobbying from several quarters, including ACI Europe [see: http://www.trbusiness.com/regional-news/international/aci-warns-that-that-trust-may-be-compromised-on-security/120086] which represents more than 500 airports in 45 European countries, handling 90% of all commercial air traffic - equivalent to plus-1.9bn passengers.

US officials have declined to give reasons for expanding the ban.

"Traveling with your laptop is part of everyday life", de Juniac said, predicting that further measures will cause "significant" disruption in the trans-Atlantic business market.

Emirates - which was directly impacted by the original electronics ban - said last month it was cutting back on flights to the USA because of weak demand.

"These alternative measures would also avoid the concentration of lithium battery-powered devices in the cargo hold of passenger aircraft, which is deemed to create an additional safety threat", de Juniac wrote, according to Reuters. That could include routinely testing laptops for chemical residues associated with bombs, requiring owners to turn on their devices, and letting frequent travelers keep their electronics with them. That airline has already cut back on its flights to the US because of the laptop ban.

In a letter to European Union transport commissioner Violeta Bulc and USA secretary of homeland security John Kelly, IATA director general Alexandre de Juniac warns member carriers have "serious concerns regarding the negative impact any expansion of the ban on PEDs in the aircraft cabin will have on airline passengers, commercial aviation and the global economy".

It said that the risk arising from storing PEDs in the hold where they may catch fire without being noticed "could be greater than the security risk of having them in the cabin'".

Almost 400 flights leave Europe for the USA each day, carrying about 85,000 people, according to airline industry and US government figures.

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