A transatlantic row is brewing over a possible extension of the US ban on laptops being carried in aircraft cabins.
The European Union is demanding urgent talks as it emerged that the Trump administration is considering extending the ban which currently applies to flights from ten airports, including the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey because of fears that a concealed bomb could be installed in electronic devices taken onto aircraft.
While no decision has yet been taken, any restrictions could hit major European carriers such as British Airways, Air France-KLM and Lufthansa and industry sources have said airlines and airports have already been working on possible contingency measures.
The EU executive said it was important that information concerning possible threats involving EU airports be shared, according to a letter sent to US homeland security secretary John Kelly and US transportation secretary Elaine Choa, seen by Reuters.
“We therefore reiterate our willingness to pursue constructive dialogue and we propose that meetings are held as a matter of urgency, both at political and technical level, to jointly assess the risk and review possible common measures,” wrote EU transport commissioner Violeta Bulc and Dimitris Avramopoulos, commissioner for migration, home affairs and citizenship.
The US imposed the ban in March and was swiftly followed by the UK, which imposed restrictions on a slightly different set of routes.
The ban was imposed after US intelligence showed that the Islamic State was developing a bomb that could be hidden in portable electronic devices.
The worry now is passengers connecting in Europe to the US from flights originating in the Middle East and Africa. European aviation security experts are meeting in Brussels to consider possible responses to any extension of the ban.
“It is in our common interest that we work closely together to address developing threats in aviation, in advance of any potential applications of new security measures to air carriers operating from the EU to the US,” the commissioners wrote.
Malaysia Airlines’ chief execuive, Peter Bellew, told Reuters at the CAPA Centre for Aviation conference near Dublin that an extension of the laptop ban would be a “pity” and make it more difficult for people to travel.
“I do think it is going to have a fundamental impact on travel to North America and I don’t think that is going to go away quickly,” he said.
European regulators have warned placing what could be potentially hundreds of devices in the hold on long-haul flights could compromise safety by increasing the risk of fire from poorly deactivated lithium-ion batteries, the Guardian reported.
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