Alarmed at a proposed expansion of the U.S. ban on in-flight laptops and tablets to include planes from the EU, European governments held urgent talks with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Since as many as 65 million people fly on trans-Atlantic routes a year, logistical chaos on the world’s busiest corridor of air travel by such a move, which some airline officials expect will happen.
about 50 flights per day are affected by the current ban, in place on 10 mostly Middle Eastern cities since March.
European Commission transport spokeswoman Anna-Kaisa Itkonen, who confirmed the talks said that chief among the concerns are whether any new threat prompted the proposal. No new information about a specific security concern were available with the EU, she said.
It was not any specific threat but on longstanding concerns about extremists targeting jetliners, which prompted the decision in March to bar laptops and tablets from the cabins of some international flights, mostly from the Mideast, U.S. officials have said.
A telephone conference with “key European partners” — France, Britain, Germany, Spain and Italy, was organized by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. It was a ministerial level call.
Saying there was no information to suggest a significant increase in the terror threat, France planned to push back against the measure, a French official with direct knowledge about Friday’s meeting. For the current French administration, Friday marks the final working day.
No final decision has been made on expanding the restriction, said Jenny Burke, a Homeland Security spokeswoman.
But to discuss expanding the laptop policy to flights arriving from Europe, the industry’s leading U.S. trade group, Airlines for America, and high-ranking executives of the three leading U.S. airlines — American, Delta and United, were present in a meeting with Homeland Security officials on Thursday.
Homeland Security gave no timetable for an announcement, but they were resigned to its inevitability, said two airline officials who were briefed on the discussions.
To minimize inconvenience to passengers, a say in how the policy is put into effect at airports is hoped to be put in by the U.S. airlines. Middle Eastern airlines were hardest hit by the initial ban on passengers bringing large electronics devices into the cabin. Reason for its decision to reduce flights to the U.S. was put on the policy by Emirates, based in Dubai.
“Chaotic” scenes initially were predicted for those checking baggage and passengers in France’s airports if the ban was instituted by Alain Bauer, president of the CNAPS, a French regulator of private-sector security agents.
“Imagine the number of people who carry their laptops and tablets onto planes — not just adults, but also children,” he told the AP.
As people try to negotiate a way of keeping their laptops, it would slow passage through security checks, he said.
“It’s not like losing your water bottle or your scissors. It will take more time to negotiate,” he said.
“You need a lot of time to inform them and a lot of time for it to enter people’s heads until it becomes a habit,” he said. “After a week of quite big difficulties, 95 percent of people will understand the practicalities.”
(Adapted from CNBC)