Airlines have mixed reaction to Trump's security directive

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Laptop in security bin
Photo Credit: Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

The airline industry offered mixed reactions to newly enhanced security measures from the Department of Homeland Security that would enable carriers to sidestep bans on laptops and tablets in the passenger cabins.

The DHS isn't saying much about the details of the new directive. But it will require airlines to implement enhanced screening of passengers and electronic devices larger than a cell phone, as well as require heightened security measures in airport public spaces and around aircraft.

Of the airports that were hit with a laptop ban in March, Abu Dhabi on July 2 was the first to implement the necessary security measures to have the ban lifted. All Etihad Airways passengers traveling to the United States can once again bring aboard a laptop or tablet.

IATA, which has been lobbying the DHS to raise the bar on security protocols instead of following through with threats to expand the carry-on electronics ban, greeted the announcement as a constructive step. It had estimated that the existing ban would impact 4.8 million passengers annually on 17,000 flights. The annual cost in lost passenger work productivity, airline delays and extra airline handling expenditures was to have been $198 million.

"[These] actions raise the bar on security," IATA director general Alexandre de Juniac said following the DHS's announcement. "The aggressive implementation timeline will, however, be challenging. Meeting it will require a continued team effort of government and industry stakeholders. In particular, airlines and airports will need to be supported by host states during the phase-in of the new requirements."

Airlines that do not comply with the directive will face a ban on all electronic devices larger than a cellphone, both as carry-ons and in checked bags. Tougher measures, including flight suspensions, are also possible.

The DHS said that it communicated with airlines as it prepared the new directives.

But Airlines for America (A4A) warned of delays on inbound U.S. flights.

"While we have been assured that carriers will have the substantial flexibility necessary to implement these measures on a global scale, we believe that the development of the security directive should have been subject to a greater degree of collaboration and coordination to avoid the significant operational disruptions and unnecessarily frustrating consequences for the traveling public that appear likely to happen," CEO Nicholas Calio said last week.

A4A urged the Trump administration to use risk analysis to implement the enhanced security measures where they are most needed.

Greeley Koch, the executive director of the Association of Corporate Travel Executives, said in a statement, "While these new screening procedures are far preferable to an outright electronic device ban for business travelers, we still need clarity on what this looks like in practice."

He added, "How onerous will these new protocols be for travelers and airlines?"

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