Laptop ban: ICAO considering global guidance on cabin electronics

Laptop ban: ICAO considering global guidance on cabin electronics

Global guidance for the use of laptops and other portable electronics in aircraft cabins is being weighed up after selective bans by the US and UK.

The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) met yesterday to debate the issue after the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and other countries complained their airlines had been unduly penalised, Reuters reported.

The organisation has been asked “to identify a possible global approach to mitigate the security risk associated with large portable electronic devices,” according to an ICAO working paper seen by the news agency.

But while ICAO aims to come up with global recommendations to counter the risk from hidden explosives in laptops, the UN agency cannot override or prevent national measures such as the US and UK bans.

The US announced laptop restrictions on flights originating from 10 airports in countries including the UAE, Qatar and Turkey in March. The UK quickly followed suit with restrictions on a slightly different set of routes.

The paper threw its weight behind concerns that laptops are a greater security risk in the passenger cabin than in the hold, because of the threat that hidden explosives could be detonated manually.

“The threat to aircraft from concealed improvised explosive devices has been the greatest security risk to commercial aircraft for some years,” it warned.

ICAO has also asked its experts to weigh this against the safety risk of storing a larger number of flammable batteries unattended in a commercial aircraft’s baggage compartment.

European regulators have warned placing what could be 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.

Patrick Ky, head of the European Aviation Safety Agency, told Reuters that it wants airlines to be careful about how they store laptops by avoiding placing them in a single container, for example.

“Should we go further? I don’t think so for the time being. But in case we have a fire risk that we think is high, then of course we would take the necessary actions,” Ky added.

ICAO’s aviation security panel is expected to make recommendations by mid-June, a spokesman said.


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