The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has expressed alarm at the possibility of an extension to passengers departing European airports of the us ban on large personal electronic devices in the cabins of airliners as officials from the Department of Homeland Security met with European Commission officials on Wednesday.
The EU and US Department of Homeland Security said in a joint statement after the meeting: "Both sides exchanged information on the serious evolving threats to aviation security and approaches to confronting such threats".
European irritation at the lack of information-sharing comes amid increasing tensions after the Washington Post reported that President Donald Trump revealed to Russia's foreign minister and ambassador closely held intelligence from a USA partner about an Islamic State terrorist plot to use laptop computers as possible weapons aboard commercial aircraft.
European officials met their American counterparts in Brussels on Wednesday to discuss aviation security, days after a potential expansion of the ban was first reported.
Airlines have been vocally opposed to a broader European ban, which it says would result in longer security lines, more flight delays and general confusion among travelers, particularly during the busy summer travel season.
Washington has already imposed an electronics ban on direct flights from 10 North African and Middle Eastern airports. Such devices would have to be packed in checked luggage.More news: US private equity firms bid for Australia newspaper empire
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The likely introduction of an expanded ban suggests that the threat is real, and not a backdoor effort to hamstring some Middle East airlines who USA carriers say compete unfairly for long-haul traffic.
The airline industry came out against the proposal in a strongly worded letter that said it would cause a severe downturn in trans-Atlantic air travel and cost travelers more than a billion dollars in lost time. Deputy Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke was set to meet Wednesday with the top European Union officials in charge of migration and transportation, Dimitris Avramopoulos and Violeta Bulc. The ban would add an additional nuisance to the the two-thirds of transatlantic passengers who travel with an electronic device larger than a cell phone. He said there is a risk that businesses will cancel travel rather than risk losing confidential data that might be compromised if executives are forced to check their laptops. Aviation sources say that Europe will seek to placate American concerns by promising closer scrutiny of laptops at the gate of US-bound flights, including routine electronic-trace detection.
It's also worth noting that transferring electronics into the plane's cargo compartment is also unsafe, since lithium ion batteries are known to occasionally catch fire when they are damaged or short-circuit.
Transferring laptops from the cabin to the cargo hold could create other issues, as lithium-based batteries can themselves be unstable. "We explained that. And our response should be one in common", Brivio said, voicing European concerns that the United States was about to take unilateral action.
The Airports Council International (ACI) trade association released a statement claiming that the new European ban will likely affect 3,684 flights each week arriving in the USA from 59 airports on the continent.