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JUNE 2017

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Baffled by bans

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by TOM BALLANTYNE 

June 1st 2017

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Even if the U.S. government does not extend its ban on passengers’ personal electronic devices (PEDs) beyond the Middle East and North Africa, the present ruling raises serious issues of safety and security for airlines. Read More »

In May, both European and U.S. security officials confirmed bans on PEDs being carried into the cabin from more airports worldwide could be imposed; information that is greatly concerning to the International Air Transport Association and its 265 members.

Apart from the operational disruption it is unleashing in effected countries, the prohibition is producing knock on effects. Foreign tourists to the U.S. are dropping off and premium travel is being hit by business travelers who want to work on board with their laptops.

IATA said the impact on airlines also includes higher costs at carriers for extra handling for hold baggage, departure delays from increased screening procedures, airlines’ liability for theft or damage to checked PEDs and a potential reduction in flight frequencies based on lower yields.

The airline association estimated the total impact of the bans will be $1.1 billion annually.

Imagine the cost to the industry if the bans spread to the Asia-Pacific and South America?

Just as alarming is the knowledge that several hundred lithium-powered PEDs are being stored in cargo holds, where they remain out of reach of crew and where they could catch fire.

No one argues with the fact that the U.S. has the sovereign right to take additional security measures when intelligence information suggests it is necessary. But Washington’s reaction is a perfect example of regulation on the run.

There was no informed consultation with the airline industry. The bans were announced without a common sense appraisal of unintended consequences of the bans. Airlines want all that to change.

IATA wants governments to increase checks on the ground before passengers board their flights. They would like sniffer dogs at airports where PEDs are perceived as threats and believe security staff should receive more specialized training to screen PEDs.

And one more point. Once again, airlines are largely bearing the cost and logistical burdens of implementing government policy. Is that fair?

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