As U.S., EU to Meet on Laptop Ban, Industry Warns of Broader Impact

European Union flags waving in front of the EU Parliament building in Brussels
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As U.S. and European Union (EU) officials prepare to meet to discuss a potential expansion of the laptop ban, travel industry organizations are warning of the potential impact an expansion could have on tourism.

ABC News reports that U.S. and EU officials are scheduled to meet in Brussels Wednesday to discuss the reported possibility of expanding the in-flight ban on laptops and other large electronic devices to flights from Europe. European Commission spokesperson Margaritis Schinas told ABC News that the talks are “to jointly assess any new threats and work toward a common approach to address them.”

In an open letter the Business Travel Coalition (BTC) warned that expanding the ban to include flights from Europe could have a big impact on travel.

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“A ban from Europe could affect 3,500 fights a week this summer and 65 million passengers per year,” the BTC wrote. “The economic risk to airlines and the travel and tourism industry is orders of magnitude greater than the threat from pandemics, volcanoes or wars. This is serious.”

The BTC said that the expanded ban could have an impact beyond business travelers losing productivity by not being able to work during their flight. Since many organizations won’t allow employees to check sensitive laptops over fears of exposing sensitive information, many business travelers will not be able to take their laptops with them on a trip to Europe.

“That for most business travelers will be an absolute no-go, deal breaker,” the BTC wrote. “That's where a dramatic falloff in business travel demand would be based. A monthly trip to London becomes a once-a-quarter one.”

The BTC noted that even a relatively small number of business travelers choosing not to fly could render an air route unprofitable.

Additionally, one month ago the European Aviation Safety Agency warned against storing large amounts of electronics in an airplane’s cargo hold due to the risk that the lithium ion batteries powering those devices could catch fire. At least two plane crashes have reportedly been traced to fires that started in palettes of lithium ion batteries.

In an interview with Travel Agent Chris Carnicelli, CEO of Generali Global Assistance, noted that an expanded laptop ban would make travel insurance even more important for many travelers.

“From the traveler’s point of view, the risk of your particular electronic device being broken or stolen is a much higher risk than if it were on your person, so travel insurance will become much more relevant,” Carnicelli says.

What can travel agents do in the event of an expanded ban? “They should make their clients aware of it, educate them,” Carnicelli says. “There are many variations of travel insurance product, and there’s confusion as to what’s covered and not covered. People should read their policies.”

Meanwhile, The Australian reports that the government of Australia is looking “very closely” at introducing a similar ban on laptops and other large devices.

“We are looking at it very closely, taking into account all the information and advice we are receiving internationally and working very closely with our partners,” the Prime Minister told The Australian. “In due course, any announcements will be made formally through the Transport Minister.”

The ban currently applies to 10 airports in the Middle East and North Africa. Travel agents with clients that might be affected by the ban can keep an eye on the current list of airports and airlines affected here. For clients concerned about the safety of their electronic devices while they are traveling as checked baggage, we’ve compiled a list of quick travel insurance tips regarding the new electronics ban to share.

Stay tuned to www.travelagentcentral.com for further updates to this developing story.