Additional security and screening measures at airports, including the use of sniffer dogs, are being proposed to US and UK authorities in an attempt to ward off a wider implementation of the laptop carry-on bans, IATA said Thursday.
Speaking to journalists ahead of the annual IATA AGM, which this year is in Cancun and begins June 4, IATA director general and CEO Alexandre de Juniac listed the electronics ban as one of a number of issues that will be raised during the AGM meetings. He said the industry did not doubt there was a threat, but the US and UK solution—banning personal electronic devices (PEDs) larger than smartphones from aircraft cabins—was “not effective and not a good way to protect passengers and crew against the threat.”
In March, the US issued a ban on PEDs in the cabin—requiring them to be placed in the baggage hold—on flights to the US from 10 airports, most of them in the Middle East. The ban affects all three major Gulf carriers—Emirates Airline, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways, as well as Turkish Airlines—but does not affect any US carrier. The UK followed by implementing a similar ban on flights to the UK, but it lists countries rather than airports and the targets of each ban do not align.
The US Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the Transportation Security Administration, is now considering widening the PED carry-on ban to flights from Europe. IATA and the European Commission are against such a move, voicing safety concerns related to the potential fire hazard when large numbers of lithium-ion battery-powered devices are in the baggage hold, and concerns about a dampening effect on demand for air travel.
In a press release issued June 1, IATA said route-level data from March show that RPKs flown by Middle East airlines to the US fell in year-on-year terms by 2.8% for the month. This was the first annual decline recorded for this market in at least seven years. “While traffic growth on the market segment already was slowing, the decline is consistent with some disruption from the PED ban that was announced March 21, as well as a wider impact on inbound travel to the US from the Trump administration’s proposed travel bans,” IATA said.
De Juniac noted that there was now regular discussion with US authorities about the impact of a broader ban, unlike when the US issued its first ban with little notice and no dialogue.
“We are strongly advocating other measures,” de Juniac said. Those include screening technology, specialist training for checkpoint staff, the use of sniffer dogs, and using data to identify passengers that might be a potential threat. CT scanners are used to screen checked bags, but the process is slower than the X-ray machines that are typically used for carry-on bags.