ASTA Calls for Global Entry, Trusted Traveler Exemption From Laptop Ban

Laptop in use by a woman on plane
Photo by leungchopan/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

With reports swirling of an expansion of the in-flight electronics ban to flights from Europe, the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) has released a statement calling for ways to minimize the ban’s impact on travelers.

“With regard to the rumored expansion of the electronics ban to additional European airports, we suggest that serious consideration be given to the possibility of exempting travelers enrolled in Global Entry and equivalent trusted traveler programs from the electronics ban,” ASTA Senior Vice President, Government & Public Affairs Eben Peck said in a written release. “If we have faith in the efficacy of these programs – and we must – then exempting these pre-screened, low-risk travelers from the ban would seem to be a sensible way to both minimize disruption to a portion of the traveling public while incentivizing enrollment.”

Peck said that ASTA members had expressed concern about the ban and its potential to negatively impact air travel and the travel industry, as well as disruption to business and leisure travelers, issues related to checking expensive electronics and the risk posed by storing large numbers of lithium ion batteries.

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“With regard to the electronics ban as well as other recent actions related to travel, we urge the Administration to expeditiously set clear rules of the road so that travel industry stakeholders can serve their clients, that travel disruptions are kept to a minimum and that the traveling public can maintain confidence in an industry so vital to our nation’s economy,” Peck said.

Multiple media reports had indicated that the Department of Homeland Security was set to announce an expansion of the ban to flights to the U.S. from Europe Thursday, but the day passed with no official word.

The impact of the proposed expansion could be significant. According to an analysis in CNN Money, the expansion could affect as many as 350 flights from Europe to the United States per day, disrupting a busy corridor for business travel between the financial centers of Europe and New York.

At the same time, European officials have warned that the laptop ban could pose safety risks by pushing passengers to check a larger number of electronic devices. ABC 12 News reports that European Union (EU) officials raised those concerns with U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly in a call on Friday.

"Commissioner Bulc highlighted the potential safety implications of putting a large number of electronic devices in the aircraft hold," a European Commission spokesperson told ABC News.

One month ago the European Aviation Safety Agency had 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, according to the ABC News report. At least two plane crashes have been traced to fires that started in palettes of lithium ion batteries.

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.

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