Unanswered Questions over Electronics Ban Irk IATA

 - June 8, 2017, 9:09 AM

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) continues to express grave concern about the effects of the ban imposed by the U.S. and the UK governments on large electronic devices in the cabin on flights from some Middle Eastern and African airports.

Opening the June 4 to 6 annual general meeting of the IATA this week in Cancun, Mexico, association director general and CEO Alexandre de Juniac said that the governments did not consult with industry and gave airlines little time to implement the ban. “The action caught everybody by surprise,” he said. “And it was a big challenge for airlines to comply with and a huge inconvenience to our customers. It should not be that way.” 

De Juniac noted that the industry trusts that valid intelligence underpinned the UK and U.S. decisions. However, he said, the measures themselves test the confidence of the industry and the public, confidence he said is critical for the success of any security regime. “The U.S. and UK have not aligned on airports that present a risk,” he said. “Questions over the safety of placing so many lithium battery devices in the baggage hold have not been answered. And the other Five Eyes nations—Canada, Australia and New Zealand—are are mitigating the threat without a ban.” 

He affirmed that airlines will never compromise on security, adding that taking electronic devices from passengers presents a real cost to them. IATA estimates that in the ban’s current scope, it will result in $180 million in lost productivity; if the ban expands to flights from Europe to the U.S., a plan U.S. authorities are considering, the price tag could surge to $1.2 billion.

The U.S. measures affect more than 18,000 daily passengers. Particularly, Gulf carriers and airports have noted a drop in passenger traffic between their hubs and the U.S. The bans, implemented in March, also have triggered uncertainty about traffic patterns and increased tensions between airlines and regulators.

IATA said the existing bans are increasing airlines’ baggage handling cost and potentially reducing frequencies because of lower yields from business passengers. The association has proposed alternative security measures including sniffer dogs, explosives detection technology, training staff to recognize potentially dangerous substances and using passengers' profiles and data exchange between airlines and governments.