Laptop Ban Could Expand to Flights From Europe; ASTA Weighs In

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The ban on large electronic devices in airline cabins could expand to flights to the U.S. from Europe, and travel industry organizations are speaking out on the change.

Department of Homeland Security officials told The Daily Beast that the organization could extend the ban on laptops, tablets and other large electronic devices to all flights from Europe to the U.S. The ban currently applies to 10 airports in the Middle East and North Africa. Reports had indicated an announcement was expected Thursday, but there has been no official word yet.

Airlines told CBS News that they have begun making preparations for an extended ban, with Lufthansa saying in a statement that it “has internally evaluated different scenarios for possible enhancements to the ban.”

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A spokesperson for the Heathrow airport told The Independent, “We are aware of media reports speculating on changes which may impact some passengers, but at this time, no changes have been announced by the authorities and there is no impact at Heathrow.”

Impact on Travel Agents

Eben Peck, senior vice president, government and public affairs at the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) has released a statement highlighting the importance of the issue to travel agents and the travel industry.

“While security is and must always be paramount when it comes to air travel, our members have raised a number of questions about the existing ban and its potential for disruption to business and leisure travelers, issues related to checking expensive electronics while traveling overseas and the possibility that it may spread to additional airports/carriers (indeed, the United Kingdom imposed a similar ban shortly after DHS),” Peck said. 

Peck noted that on March 31 ASTA had sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly asking a series of questions about the existing ban, including how long it will be in effect, the differences between the U.S.’ and U.K.’s ban, the risk associated with checking lithium ion batteries, and other issues.

“In a sense, this is the latest chapter in a debate that has raging in Washington since 9/11 – how do we find the right balance between securing the air travel system from terrorist attack and facilitating the movement of travelers through that system,” Peck said. “For our industry, the stakes in this debate couldn’t be higher.  Travel agencies continue to sell a huge volume of air travel – more than $85 billion a year, or more than 390,000 tickets per day.  Not only that, but our research shows that travel agency clients fly more than the general public – 4.7 trips per year vs. 3.6 trips for leisure travel and 5.8 trips per year vs. 4.1 trips per year for business travel.”

Peck urged a balance between a “rational airport security regime” and keeping travelers flying, calling it critical to the health of the travel industry.

“With regard to the current electronics ban and any future contemplated expansion, as well as other recent Administration 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 vital to our nation’s economy,” Peck said.

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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