EU demands urgent talks with Washington over laptop ban

Passengers open their luggage and show their electronic equipment at security point at the Ataturk Airport. Istanbul, 2017. [Sedat Suna/EPA]

The European Union has demanded urgent talks with the United States over a possible extension to some European countries of a US ban on airline passengers taking laptops into cabins, saying any security threats faced are common.

The Trump Administration is likely to extend the ban already applicable to flights originating from 10 specific airports in the Middle East, north Africa and Turkey because of fears that a concealed bomb could be installed in electronic devices taken onto an aircraft, officials said.

US likely to expand airline laptop ban to Europe

The Trump Administration is likely to expand a ban on laptops on commercial aircraft to include some European countries, but is reviewing how to ensure lithium batteries stored in luggage holds do not explode in midair, officials briefed on the matter said yesterday (10 May).

In a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly and Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, the EU executive said it was important that information concerning possible threats involving EU airports be shared.

“We, therefore, reiterate our willingness to pursue constructive dialogue and we propose that meetings are held as a matter of urgency, both at political and technical level, to jointly assess the risk and review possible common measures,” wrote EU Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc, EU Transport Commissioner and Commissioner for Migration Dimitris Avramopoulos.

While no decision has yet been taken, any restrictions could hit major European airlines such as Lufthansa, British Airways, Air France-KLM and industry sources have said airlines and airports have already been working on possible contingency measures.

Olivier Jankovec, director-general of airport trade association ACI Europe, said it was worrying that there appeared to be little coordination between the EU and the United States.

“We know that in the current geopolitical context, with the kind of terrorist threat we face, an efficient response is really predicated on international cooperation – around the threat assessment and the sharing of intelligence. This is not taking place,” Jankovec said at a CAPA Centre for Aviation industry conference near Dublin.

The United States imposed the ban in March and was quickly followed by Britain which imposed restrictions on a slightly different set of routes.

European aviation security experts are meeting in Brussels to consider possible responses to any extension of the ban. Two EU officials said the discussions had so far concentrated on maintaining a common front.

The EU ambassador to the United States will meet with Kelly in the coming days to discuss the issue, one of the officials said.

“It is in our common interest that we work closely together to address developing threats in aviation, in advance of any potential applications of new security measures to air carriers operating from the EU to the US,” the Commissioners wrote.

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