Aviation security experts say a laptop ban in aircraft cabins can be made to “work” but needs to be managed carefully.
The immediate threat of a ban on laptops and tablets in cabin bags on flights between Europe and the US was removed yesterday following a meeting of US and EU officials in Brussels. But latest reports suggest US authorities are now considering a worldwide ban. A follow-up meeting between EU and US officials is due early next week.
EasyJet head of security Michael Broster said: “If there is a ban we will make it work.”
He told an aviation law seminar in London hosted by law firm Hill Dickinson: “We will need to manage it. But in the short term there would be some issues at major airports.”
Peter O’Broin, policy manager at the UK Airport Operators Association, said: “If there is a security threat and we need heightened security measures we’ll implement them. We will do whatever we are directed to do.”
But he said: “A ban would need to be managed carefully. Do passengers start putting everything in the hold?”
O’Broin added: “The EU is saying the measures need to be proportionate and based on a specific threat.”
He told the seminar: “We do a good job of aviation security. We have a good record. Security is the number one priority. The challenge is to build a strong passenger experience around that.
“The more comfortable you make passengers [going through security], the more someone who is up to something stands out.”
Matthew Finn, managing director of security firm Augmentiq, agreed security in the sector “is very good”. But he said: “A ban would suggest airport security is incapable of detecting an improvised device in cabin baggage.”
He pointed out: “Invariably, at an airport you go through security checks as an unknown [traveller], but the airline knows who you are. We have the PNR [passenger name record] data. Why aren’t we using the data?”
Finn criticised the low pay and poor employment terms of airport security workers, saying this led to a high turnover of staff.
He blamed “pressure on costs” and said: “Security staff are often on zero-hour contracts and low pay, and career opportunities are often not there. So people bounce out of aviation security quite quickly. There is a high churn rate.”
Detective chief superintendent Scott Wilson of the UK’s National Counter Terrorism Security Office warned: “Aviation is a key target – it creates big headlines. Isis wants a lot of attacks and if they could get a bomb on a plane they would.”
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