Laptop ban sparks debate at gathering of airline execs

Debate about the laptop ban heated up Monday at a major international airline conference.

Setting flight restrictions on personal electronics requires governments to balance security and safety concerns, the head of a branch of the United Nations that suggests airline policies told the International Air Transport Association.

Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu, the council president of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), told airline executives that a task force would review security risks of explosives hidden in electronic devices so that officials could discuss the subject a meeting this November. ICAO sets international policies to provide consistency for the industry, but governments must then choose whether to adopt them.

“We are working very rapidly to ensure this work will be completed in time to permit the council’s comprehensive review later this year,” Aliu told the IATA meeting in Cancun, Mexico. “We recognize that the number of business and pleasure travelers wishing to carry their laptops or other devices into aircraft in the years ahead will continue to increase, with those devices becoming more and more important to their productivity and social needs.”

Airlines have criticized March decisions in the U.S. and the United Kingdom to prohibit electronics larger than cellphones in carry-on bags for flights from specific countries in the Middle East and Africa. Security officials warned of a significant threat, but the two bans affected different airlines in different countries.

John Kelly, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, has been discussing for weeks with airlines and his counterparts in other countries whether to expand the ban to all flights from Europe or perhaps worldwide.

But Alexandre de Juniac, CEO of the IATA group that represents 265 airlines worldwide, repeated calls on Monday for governments to find alternatives to the ban. He said airlines must trust that valid intelligence justified the bans, but added that the measures are testing the confidence of travelers and the industry.

 

© 2017 USA TODAY


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