World aviation body slams 'unacceptable' Anglo-American laptop ban

World aviation body slams 'unacceptable' Anglo-American laptop ban
The International Airport Transport Association has slammed recent electronics cabin bans levelled by the US and UK governments calling for greater transparency, and intelligence sharing on the controversial matter
3 min read
29 March, 2017
Thousands of travellers have been affected by the UK and US bans [AFP]

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), a trade association of the world’s airlines, has slammed recent "laptop bans" implemented by the US and UK restricting the carry-on of electronic devices larger than phones on certain flights from the Middle East and North Africa.

In a statement on Tuesday Alexandre de Juniac, the IATA's Director General called the current bans an unacceptable "long-term solution to whatever threat" the US and UK governments are trying to mitigate.

The UK ban came into effect on Saturday.

It currently applies to flights from Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia.

Questionable efficacy

According to the ban travellers are not permitted to take laptops, tablets, and other electronic equipment larger than than 6.3 inches long, 3.6 inches wide and 0.6 inches on board with them as hand luggage.

Instead such items must be checked in, and placed in the aircrafts hold.

The UK ban follows a similar ruling made by the United States applying to travellers from 10 airports in eight Middle Eastern and North African states. 

"Even in the short-term it is difficult to understand their effectiveness," said de Juniac, adding that the laptop ban was detrimentally affecting air travel for thousands of people, and eroding public confidence in the security of the global aviation industry.

"Why don't the US and the UK have a common list of airports? How can laptops be secure in the cabin on some flights and not others, including flights departing from the same airport? And surely there must be a way to screen electronic equipment effectively?" said de Juniac, addressing the Montreal Council on Foreign Relations on Tuesday.

"The current situation is not acceptable and will not maintain the all-important confidence of the industry or of travelers."

De Juniac criticized the US and UK for implementing the bans without prior consultation stating that the IATA was also responsible for ensuring the safety of passengers, crews, and aircrafts.

"Intelligence is king," said de Juniac, "And it needs to be shared amongst governments and with the industry. It's the only way to stop terrorists before they get near an airport, let alone aircraft."

Carriers' reactions

Since the US and UK bans were announced, and consequently come into place, affected airlines have reacted in different ways.

Royal Air Jordanian has posted a series of posts on its Twitter handle poking fun at the ban, Qatar Airways' chief executive has claimed that the ban is not "targeting Gulf carriers" and is a security measure that airlines have no choice but to comply with, and Emirates has taken the opportunity to emphasise the inflight entertainment it has to offer, replete with a new advert fronted by former Friends actor Jennifer Aniston that asks: "Who needs laptops and tablets anyway?"

Emirates has also introduced a service that enables US-bound passengers to use their laptops and tablets until just before boarding. But, arguably Etihad Airways has gone the furthest, in attempting to limit the disruptions caused by the ban, to its passengers.

On Tuesday the Gulf carrier announced that it would loan iPads and provide free Wi-Fi beginning on April 2. However, the offer will only apply to first and business class customers.