Airlines should prepare for the UK and US bans on electronic devices bigger than smartphones in cabin bags “to become more widespread”, a senior risk consultant has warned.
Bob Judson, a director in the risk advisory practice of Deloitte in London, said: “It might just be temporary, but we need to plan as if this is an ongoing issue.”
The US introduced a ban on laptops, tablets, e-readers, games consoles and other devices bigger than a mobile phone in the cabin of inbound flights from nine Muslim majority countries in late March.
The UK followed with a ban on devices on flights from six countries, excluding the UAE and Qatar which fall within the US restriction. The UK ban extends to all airlines whereas the US ban excludes US carriers.
So far no other countries have followed suit, although Australia has introduced additional security checks on hand luggage.
Britain’s Home Secretary Amber Rudd hinted at an extension of the ban in a TV interview last month.
Judson told Travel Weekly: “I don’t think it’s a surprise different countries take a different view. The intelligence available to different countries will be different.
“If you have a different control regime, that will drive you to a different place in terms of security risk. [But] the ban is quite specific. These decisions will not have been taken lightly.”
He added: “Something on board is clearly riskier than something packed in the hold, where it’s much more difficult to activate.”
But he said: “The bigger issue is the direction of travel. Is this a situation that will go away, or will it become more widespread? It’s a bit like the liquids ban. The reasons behind that weren’t public knowledge at the time.
“We need to plan for a possible future where we are likely to see less personal belongings in the cabin and more in the hold. That introduces a set of challenges because the trend has been the other way.”
He said: “These things are rarely done on a whim. Those imposing the measures are well aware it will be disruptive, but clearly safety must come first.”
Judson noted: “Are leisure travellers willing to revert to the pre-electronic age? That is one challenge.
“The other is people who work [on flights] – it’s lost time for businesses. It’s irrelevant whether you fly with or without Wi-Fi, normally you would be able to work on your own machine.
“You can have late check-in of electronic items. [But] quite a lot of company policies don’t allow you to check-in devices because of security.”
Ryanair chief marketing officer Kenny Jacobs said: “If the ban expands it would lead to an increase in check-in bags. We would have to handle that just as all airlines would.”
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