The Airports Council International (ACI) Europe warned that extending the current laptop ban to U.S.-bound flights from European airports would result in "significant disruptions."
"[The ban] would hit the Continent's busiest airports hardest, where a significant portion of U.S.-bound flights would need to be canceled at short notice," said Olivier Jankovec, director general of ACI Europe. "For the flights that could still operate there would be delays, which would compromise onward connections in the U.S."
U.S. and European officials met today in Brussels regarding the possible extension to Europe of the large personal electronic device (PED) ban currently in place on flights from 10 Middle East and North Africa airports to the U.S. According to a statement from the Department of Homeland Security released following that meeting, officials will meet again in Washington next week to "further assess shared risks and solutions for protecting airline passengers while ensuring the smooth functioning of global air travel."
"Beyond the immediate operational impact, we are concerned about the consequences that such a ban would have on demand for transatlantic air travel and ultimately connectivity between Europe and the U.S.," Jankovec added, noting that Emirates' decision to downsize its operations in the U.S. because of the ban is "indeed worrying and points to a wider and lasting economic impact."
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ACI Europe said that 59 European airports currently have direct services to the U.S. with a total of 3,684 weekly flights. "Given the volumes involved, extending the current U.S. ban to European airports would result in significant disruptions, with implications on various aspects on airport and airline operations," the ACI stated.
The policy would "require the deployment of a very large number of additional security staff" to handle additional screening checks for each flight and to load PEDs into the hold of aircraft among other changes needed to accommodate the ban, staff that would need to be hired and trained.
"In addition to the extended boarding processing times involved by the extra screening, this would generate inefficiencies in infrastructure capacity utilization, with potentially spill-over effects on other flights," the ACI stated.
The five airports with the most traffic to the U.S. are London Heathrow (761 flights), Paris Charles de Gaulle (353 flights), Frankfurt (291 flights), Amsterdam Schiphol (242 flights) and Dublin (179 flights) account for almost 50% of the weekly flights to the U.S., ACI Europe said.
The group estimates that based on a sample of European airports, 60% to 90% of passengers on those flights carry PEDs on flights to the U.S.
This report was updated at 4:35 p.m. Eastern to include additional details about the meetings between European and U.S. officials.