Aviation IATA seeks security alternatives to fend off electronics ban By Robert Silk / June 15, 2017 Share 1 -- CANCUN -- Concern that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security could expand its ban on carry-on electronic devices to include flights from Europe, and perhaps beyond, emerged as a unifying theme at the IATA Annual General Meeting here last week. In testimony before Congress last week, Department of Homeland Security secretary John Kelly said the agency is considering expanding the ban of large carry-on electronic devices (laptops and tablets) to inbound U.S. flights from 71 airports around the world. To fend off such an action, the airline industry is promising a coordinated effort to develop security-related alternatives to a ban. Alexandre de Juniac "We need to get security right," IATA director general Alexandre de Juniac said in his keynote speech at the conference. "There is a clear duty to make sure that the measures are logical, effective and efficient. That is not the case with the current ban, and it must change."The existing bans, which were separately put into effect by the U.S. and the U.K. in late March, forbid carry-on electronics larger than a cellphone on flights from selected Middle Eastern and North African countries. The U.S. and U.K. said the ban is based on intelligence about the potential for terrorists to turn laptops and other devices into bombs. However, the fact that the specific countries subject to the ban differ between the U.S. and the U.K. has stoked doubts both within and outside the airline industry about the edicts. IATA estimates that the bans, as they exist now, will impact 4.8 million passengers annually on 17,000 flights. The cost in lost passenger work productivity, airline delays and extra airline handling expenditures would be $198 million, IATA said. If the bans were expanded to include flights from Europe to the U.S., those costs would rise to $1.2 billion, on 142,000 annual flights. And if the ban were to be imposed worldwide, it would impact 786,000 flights annually at an estimated cost in productivity and direct expense of $3.4 billion.While the data is still too scant for certainty, IATA believes the electronics ban has already impacted traffic from the Middle East to the U.S., which dropped 2.8% in March. That was the first year-over-year monthly decline reported for the U.S.-Middle East market in at least seven years. On the IATA general meeting's first day, the trade body passed a resolution urging nations, member airlines and other aviation industry stakeholders to work together on aviation security. The resolution also called for governments to engage in early dialogue with the airline industry as it considers new security measures. De Juniac had previously been critical of the U.S. and the U.K. for not consulting with the industry ahead of imposing the carry-on electronics ban. During a press briefing at the conference, IATA director of security Matthew Vaughan and Nick Careen, the organization's senior vice president of airport, passenger and cargo security, laid out IATA's alternative vision to deal with concerns about explosive devices in electronics. In the immediate term, Vaughan and Careen called for expanded use of explosive trace detection equipment at airports, which can detect trace amounts of bomb-making materials on people's hands or clothing. They also called for the expanded use of anti-tampering analysis of electronic devices, for increasing the amount of training for security screeners on detecting explosives in electronic devices and for increasing the deployment of explosive detection dogs as well as officers trained in behavioral detection. Finally, IATA is calling on governments to more closely screen passenger manifests. In the long run, IATA is calling for the development and deployment of next- generation screening technology, a measure that will require more financial commitment from nations.In the meantime, the U.N.'s 191-member International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has established a security panel, which met for the first time on June 1 and 2, ICAO president Olumuyiwa Aliu said at the IATA meeting. The group will meet through the summer, with the goal of presenting a plan to the U.N. Security Council in October. Attendees of the IATA general meeting, including airline CEOs, expressed concern that an expanded laptop ban would create more risks than it would ameliorate due to the dangers of packing dozens of devices that are fueled by combustible lithium batteries into cargo holds, where fires can't be detected or squelched as quickly as fires within the cabin.Malaysia Airlines CEO Peter Bellew said that in an effort to secure their aircraft, some carriers could react to a carry-on electronics ban by banning laptops and personal devices entirely."I think there will be draconian measures from the airlines," Bellew said during an IATA panel discussion. "Don't even come near the airport with your laptop."