Laptop ban in Europe could cost airline passengers $1 billion

U.S. and European Union officials are due to meet later on Wednesday to discuss aviation security, with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security having said an extension of the ban, which now affects flights from the Middle East and north Africa, was likely.

United States officials had previously said they were looking into extending to Europe a ban on electronic devices on flights originating from 10 airports in eight countries including the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, over alleged concerns that bombs could be hidden in the devices.

There was speculation that the electronic device restrictions now in place on flights from certain Middle East countries, would be extended to include routes from Europe to the US.

The International Air Transport Association, or IATA, which represents 265 airlines, wrote to both the European Union and the U.S. State Department on Tuesday to oppose the proposed ban, which it said would deeply affect the economy and cause the equivalent of $1.1 billion in lost time to passengers.

"Both sides exchanged information on the serious evolving threats to aviation security and approaches to confronting such threats", the Commission said in a statement.

The proposed electronics ban would create logistical chaos on the world's busiest air travel corridor - as many as 65 million people a year travel between Europe and North America on almost 400 daily flights, many of them business travelers who rely on the devices to work during flight.

Extending the curbs, which now apply to only some US- bound services from the Middle East and North Africa, would obstruct travel and might not be the best way of countering the terror threat, International Air Transport Association (Iata) chief executive Alexandre de Juniac said in an interview yesterday.

Earlier this week it warned of huge disruption at European and USA airports if any such ban was approved and significant delays, since more security staff would need to be recruited over a period of weeks, so effectively causing mayhem.

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"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.

ACI Europe Director General Olivier Jankovec also pointed at the economic impact the existing laptop ban has had on Middle Eastern airlines.

Now, extrapolate what would happen when all the larger devices were taken out of the cabin and thrown in the hold with the rest of the luggage. Be prepared for another indignity: The White House is considering new rules that will prevent passengers from carrying laptops aboard flights from London and several European cities to the U.S. And such a proposal wouldn't just inconvenience customers; it has the potential to devastate the airline industry by driving away customers and leading to a sharp drop-off in bookings and profits.

With the USA pushing to expand the ban, and other groups suggesting it should be rolled back, we may be at a tipping point.

This follows a ban on laptops in carry-on bags that has been in place on flights to the USA originating in 10 Middle Eastern cities since March.

Officials with the European Union have been trying to pry details from USA officials who have been pushing for the ban as a means of reducing the threat that such devices can be used by terrorists.

The afternoon meeting included high level executives from Delta Air Lines Inc., United Airlines Inc., American Airlines Group Inc. and trade group Airlines for America, the sources said.

BALPA went even further by suggesting that storing PEDs in aircraft holds actually "clashes with current safety advice" stating that such devices should ideally be carried "in the cabin in case of a fire".

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