Among the many aviation-related issues being discussed this week by airline CEOs and others at the International Air Transport Association meeting in Cancun, Mexico is the current ban on laptops and other large personal electronic devices in the cabins of airplanes flying to the UK and the United State from some airports in the Middle East and Africa.
“There was no consultation with industry and little time to implement. The action caught everybody by surprise,” Alexandre de Juniac, the IATA CEO told meeting attendees, “And it was a big challenge for airlines to comply, and a huge inconvenience to our customers. It should not be that way.”
“Airlines will never compromise on security,” said de Juniac, “It is also a fact that taking electronic devices from passengers has real cost to them. In the ban’s current scope we estimate $180 million in lost productivity. And that could surge to $1.2 billion if the ban is expanded to flights from Europe to the US .”
“We need to get security right,” he added, “There is a clear duty to make sure that the measures are logical, effective and efficient. That is not the case with the current ban. And it must change.”
“First, we must find alternatives to the ban,” said de Juniac. “In the short-term, these include more intense screening at the gate and skills training. In the medium-term more advanced and faster explosive detection technology is the solution to evolving bomb threats. But painfully slow certification processes must be accelerated so that we can actually use it.”
For now, airlines – and airports – all over the world are preparing for the possibility that the laptop ban will be expanded.
Airports are making plans for how re-arrange check-in areas to accommodate all the ‘carry-on only’ passengers who may now need to check a bag with electronics devices.
“Some of our (airline) clients are investing in having a sizable number of tablets on hand to be available to customers should the ban come into effect, ” Bryan Terry, Managing Director, Aviation, for PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).
They’re doing it not because they really know the ban is coming. “But just as a natural course of risk management activities, ” said Terry, “They don’t want to be at a disadvantage if any of their peers are doing the same.”