A lack of consistency between the US and UK over their respective airline cabin laptop bans has come under fire from the head of Iata.

The process used by governments to put in place the security measures was described as being “woefully lacking”.

The airline trade body called on governments to urgently find alternatives to restricting the carry-on of large electronic items on certain flights departing the Middle East and North Africa.

Iata director general and chief executive, Alexandre de Juniac, said: “The current measures are not an acceptable long-term solution to whatever threat they are trying to mitigate.

“Even in the short term it is difficult to understand their effectiveness. And the commercial distortions they create are severe.

“We call on governments to work with the industry to find a way to keep flying secure without separating passengers from their personal electronics.”

He highlighted the need to maintain public confidence in the security of the global aviation industry which operates an average of 100,000 flights a day.”

De Juniac said: “With the measures now in place, our passengers and member airlines are asking valid questions. Why don’t the US and the UK have a common list of airports? How can laptops be secure in the cabin on some flights and not others, including flights departing from the same airport? And surely there must be a way to screen electronic equipment effectively?

“The current situation is not acceptable and will not maintain the all-important confidence of the industry or of travelers. We must find a better way. And governments must act quickly.”

“The industry came together quickly to implement the new requirements. That was a challenge because there was no prior consultation and little coordination by governments,” said de Juniac.

Iata has long called for better information sharing and coordination on security measures among governments and with the industry.

“While governments have the primary responsibility for security, we share the priority of keeping passengers, crew and aircraft secure,” de Juniac said. “To do that effectively intelligence is king. And it needs to be shared amongst governments and with the industry. It’s the only way to stop terrorists before they get near an airport, let alone aircraft,”

He added: “Airlines don’t want access to state secrets. But if airlines understand the outcome governments want, they can help with the operational experience to deliver that result effectively and efficiently.”

Challenges to aviation security were highlighted in Resolution 2309 of the UN Security Council which tasked the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to develop a Global Aviation Security Plan (GASeP).

“The need for such a plan has been made very clear by wide gaps in the measures taken by governments in recent days,” de Juniac claimed.

“States need to lend their full support to ICAO in developing GASeP quickly. And even before that can be achieved, there is an early opportunity to make a real improvement to international co-operation on security.

“In May ICAO member states will consider amendments to Annex 17 of the Chicago convention that would require information sharing. The security experience of recent years should compel states to support this.”