People, Travel

European Authorities Push Back on US Laptop Ban

European Authorities Push Back on US Laptop BanEuropean Authorities Push Back on US Laptop Ban

European authorities are still resisting a US initiative to expand a laptop ban in airline cabins by questioning the potential safety risks, according to three people with knowledge of the discussions.

At a meeting in Brussels, Belgium, on Wednesday, EU officials demanded the US provide more specific information on how the risk of explosion of large electronic devices is greater in airline cabins than in cargo holds and why a ban is more appropriate than stepping up existing measures, said the people, according to Bloomberg.

They asked not to be identified because the discussions are private.

Even as negotiations are scheduled to continue next week in Washington, one European official said they were left with the impression that a ban is all but certain, as the US authorities claimed they possess strong evidence about a threat.

 A separate official said the EU is still pushing for alternative options, including tightening security screening, and would reciprocate any unilateral decision by the US government to ensure that no side gains a competitive advantage.

While air travel has been a major terrorist target for decades, industry and government officials are wary of further security measures that would cause major disruption to passenger comfort.

The issue also adds to tensions between continental Europe and the US government after revelations that US President Donald Trump passed on intelligence to Russia about a plot to turn laptops in airplanes into weapons, while keeping his EU partners in the dark.

 Mutual Assurances

The two sides sought to reassure their “commitment to continue working together”, with a joint statement by the European Commission and the US Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday.

While no ban was announced after Wednesday’s meeting, the two sides agreed to “further assess shared risks and solutions for protecting airline passengers, whilst ensuring the smooth functioning of global air travel”.

One of the officials said airlines and airport authorities are already bracing for an imminent extension of the ban, which was first introduced for incoming flights to the US from some Middle East destinations.

A second official said flights from the UK would also be included in a potential ban and the country’s authorities are preparing to respond.

The widening of a US ban on carrying electronic devices aboard aircraft to include flights from Europe would cost travelers more than $1 billion, the International Air Transport Association said on Wednesday.

While existing curbs on some services from the Middle East and North Africa affect 350 US-bound flights per week, extending it to the 28 European Union states plus Switzerland, Norway and Iceland would impact 390 a day, or more than 2,500 a week, IATA estimates.

That would cost passengers $655 million in lost productivity, $216 million for longer travel times and $195 million for renting loaner devices on board, it says.

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