Extending the US cabin laptop ban to Europe would create an “economic tsunami”, the Business Travel Coalition warned today.

The alert came ahead of a reported meeting between representatives of the US Department of Homeland Security with European Commission transport officials in Brussels tomorrow (Wednesday).

The current ban imposed by the Trump administration affects an estimated 350 transatlantic flights a week from the Middle East and North Africa.

“A ban from Europe could affect 3,500 fights a week this summer and 65 million passengers per year,” BTC chairman Kevin Mitchell said in a letter to European transport commissioner Violeta Bulc.

“The economic risk to airlines and the travel and tourism industry is orders of magnitude greater than the threat from pandemics, volcanoes or wars.”

Mitchell added: “Very importantly, recent press coverage has almost exclusively focused on the negative impact to productivity from business travellers not being able to access laptops while flying across the world through Middle East airports, or to the US from European airports. However, that lost productivity is only a very small part of the problem.

There is a much larger issue that will slam business travel demand, harming airlines, the travel and tourism ecosystem, organisations fielding business travellers and economic activity levels because of lost transactions.

“Simply put, the ripple effects of this could create an economic tsunami of the likes of which terrorists are dreaming of but instead it will be at the hand of government directive.

“Most organisations – corporations, universities, governments – will not allow employees to check laptops, most of which have sensitive information on them. IT chiefs and risk managers are very conservative and assume everything on a laptop is sensitive – emails, contacts, hiring, marketing and sales strategies, new product diagrams, etc.

“As such, well beyond lost inflight productivity, the significantly larger consequence of a potential electronics ban is if, for example, a business traveller is going to London for a week, he will not have his laptop with him.

“That for most business travellers will be an absolute no-go, deal breaker. That’s where a dramatic fall off in business travel demand would be based. A monthly trip to London becomes a once-a-quarter one.

“It only takes a relatively small number of business travelers to stay home to make a flight unprofitable and consequently drive down demand for and yields on all business and first class seat sales.

“There is evidence that this already is happening. Despite creative efforts by Gulf carriers such as gate-side check-in, separate secure inflight storage and dedicated arrival pick-up, not to mention onboard loaner tablets, early indications are the negative impact on bookings has been significant.”

His fears were echoed by a spokeswoman from Travelzoo, who said: “With laptops now banned on flights entering the US from flights originating from 10 airports including in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, and plans to do the same on European flights, we expect business travel to be impacted as a result.

“While safety and security should remain a top priority, it’s important to understand that these new safety precautions, imposed on flights from the EU, could have a detrimental effect on US inbound business travel.”

Extending the US cabin laptop ban to Europe would create an “economic tsunami”, the Business Travel Coalition warned today.

The alert came ahead of a reported meeting between representatives of the US Department of Homeland Security with European Commission transport officials in Brussels tomorrow (Wednesday).

The current ban imposed by the Trump administration affects an estimated 350 transatlantic flights a week from the Middle East and North Africa.

“A ban from Europe could affect 3,500 fights a week this summer and 65 million passengers per year,” BTC chairman Kevin Mitchell said in a letter to European transport commissioner Violeta Bulc.

“The economic risk to airlines and the travel and tourism industry is orders of magnitude greater than the threat from pandemics, volcanoes or wars.”

Mitchell added: “Very importantly, recent press coverage has almost exclusively focused on the negative impact to productivity from business travellers not being able to access laptops while flying across the world through Middle East airports, or to the US from European airports. However, that lost productivity is only a very small part of the problem.

There is a much larger issue that will slam business travel demand, harming airlines, the travel and tourism ecosystem, organisations fielding business travellers and economic activity levels because of lost transactions.

“Simply put, the ripple effects of this could create an economic tsunami of the likes of which terrorists are dreaming of but instead it will be at the hand of government directive.

“Most organisations – corporations, universities, governments – will not allow employees to check laptops, most of which have sensitive information on them. IT chiefs and risk managers are very conservative and assume everything on a laptop is sensitive – emails, contacts, hiring, marketing and sales strategies, new product diagrams, etc.

“As such, well beyond lost inflight productivity, the significantly larger consequence of a potential electronics ban is if, for example, a business traveller is going to London for a week, he will not have his laptop with him.

“That for most business travellers will be an absolute no-go, deal breaker. That’s where a dramatic fall off in business travel demand would be based. A monthly trip to London becomes a once-a-quarter one.

“It only takes a relatively small number of business travelers to stay home to make a flight unprofitable and consequently drive down demand for and yields on all business and first class seat sales.

“There is evidence that this already is happening. Despite creative efforts by Gulf carriers such as gate-side check-in, separate secure inflight storage and dedicated arrival pick-up, not to mention onboard loaner tablets, early indications are the negative impact on bookings has been significant.”

His fears were echoed by a spokeswoman from Travelzoo, who said: “With laptops now banned on flights entering the US from flights originating from 10 airports including in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, and plans to do the same on European flights, we expect business travel to be impacted as a result.

“While safety and security should remain a top priority, it’s important to understand that these new safety precautions, imposed on flights from the EU, could have a detrimental effect on US inbound business travel.”