Banning personal electric devices in hand baggage

By | Category: Travel rumblings

Overnight a story has broken in the Washington Post about Donald Trump telling the Russian foreign minister about a threat from the terrorist group IS that involved using lap-tops on aircraft.

Prior to that meeting last week, the US had already been suggesting that it might ban laptops and other similarly sized personal electronic devices (PED’s) from being taken as hand luggage on flights from Europe.  At that stage, there was no suggestion as to why other than it was due to some intelligence information that a laptop might be used as a terrorist weapon.

Whether the Donald Trump story is true or not it, the issue of carrying laptops as hand baggage is causing concern to passengers and the airlines.

After the US introduced a ban on carrying these items as hand luggage, Emirates said that they were cutting flights to the US because of a drop in demand.  The effect of a similar ban by the British government isn’t apparent yet.

The EU has asked for urgent discussions at about the same time that the US Department of Homeland Security has suggested that the ban on carrying PED’s on flights from Europe might come into force as early as this week. This was followed by Australia’s Prime Minister, Malcom Turnbull, suggesting that Australia might introduce a similar ban on devices in hand baggage.

Businesses are said to be unhappy because many have rules saying that laptops have to be carried as hand luggage because of sensitive data that is carried on them.

As I wrote earlier there are a number of issues if a ban is extended. Airlines might find that – like Emirates – they will see a drop in business. But pilots are concerned as well. Because of the lithium batteries in devices, the British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) is worried about potential fires in the hold.  Its safety specialist says that there have been two crashes where lithium batteries have been cited in the accident reports. If the devices were carried in the cabin any problem would be spotted much more quickly than if it was in the hold.

If both views are taken into account the answer is to ban passengers taking PED’s. Business people would have to take any business related information on USB sticks or other storage devices. Just as some airlines provide laptops for work on the flight, other airlines might have to follow suit. But that doesn’t seem to have stopped Emirates losing business. Are business passengers resorting to communications features like Skype or video conferencing?

For leisure passengers the issue may not be as crucial. After  all, passengers managed well before the development of PED’s.

Whichever way you look at it, it seems we passengers are going to have to face more inconvenience which makes flying even more of a chore rather than a pleasure.

UPDATE: 18 May 2017

At a meeting between the EU and USA officials it was decided NOT to introduce a ban on carrying PED’s as hand language. According to Associated Press,  “other measures may be considered”  – whatever that means! Just because it was decided not to introduce a ban now doesn’t mean to say that it won’t be reconsidered.

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