A fresh warning was issued about the “highly disruptive and far-reaching consequences” of an extension of the US cabin ‘laptop ban’ ahead of a crucial meeting today in Brussels to discuss the issue.
Airports body ACI Europe joined industry condemnation of a possible widening of the ban on large electronic devices being taken on board aircraft cabins on transatlantic routes from Europe.
The head of the organisation spoke out ahead of a meeting in Brussels between the US Department for Homeland Security (DHS) and the European Commission.
Extending the current US ban covering certain Middle East and north African countries to European airports would result in “significant disruptions, with implications on various aspects on airport and airline operations”.
A total of 59 airports in the European Common Aviation Area have direct services to the US, with a total of 3.684 weekly flights being operated.
The five airports with the largest number of US weekly flights are Heathrow (761), Paris-Charles de Gaulle (353), Frankfurt (291), Amsterdam-Schiphol (242) and Dublin (179).
Together, the airports account for nearly 50% of the weekly flights to the US.
Based on a sample of European airports, the number of passengers carrying large personal electronic devices is estimated to be between 60% and 90%.
An extension of the ban would lead to ad hoc screening checks at the gate of each flight, as well as the implementation of related processes to load devices into the hold of aircraft.
This would require a “very large number” of additional security staff needing to be trained and gain security clearance – a process that usually takes several weeks, according to ACI Europe.
Affected airports would also need to reconsider their gate allocation system – with the objective of re-grouping US bound flights within ‘common gate areas’, where possible.
In addition to the extended boarding processing times involved by the extra screening, this would generate inefficiencies in infrastructure capacity utilisation, with potentially spill-over effects on other flights.
ACI Europe director general, Olivier Jankovec, said: “All in all, if the ban was to go ahead, it would hit the continent’s busiest airports hardest, where a significant portion of US-bound flights would need to be cancelled at short notice.
“For the flights that could still operate there would be delays, which would compromise onward connections in the US.
“Beyond the immediate operational impact, we are concerned about the consequences that such a ban would have on demand for transatlantic air travel – and ultimately connectivity between Europe and the US.
“The fact that one of the affected Gulf airlines has downsized its operations the US is indeed worrying – and points to a wider and lasting economic impact.”
Jankovec said that the meeting should be the opportunity for the EU and the US “to re-set their co-operation on aviation security”.
He added: “More than ever, given the geopolitical environment we are in, we need the EU and the US to work hand-in-hand on this.
“This is what the travelling public – and citizens – rightly expect from their governments, as it is the only way to stand a chance of defeating terrorism.”
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