Following a meeting between the United States Department of Homeland Security and representatives of the European Union, an expanded laptop ban could be coming “in the next several days or weeks,” according to a senior Trump administration official cited by The New York Times.
American and European officials met Wednesday to discuss a potential expansion of the ban, which reportedly could be broadened to include all flights from Europe. According to the Times report, during the meeting homeland security officials shared insights into a developing aviation security threat, including that terrorist groups were pursuing various new strategies that included putting explosives into consumer devices.
Reports of a potential expansion of the ban have drawn broad concern from the travel industry. Travis Katz, co-founder and CEO of Trip.com, tells Travel Agent that imposing a ban “sends a signal of distrust to a region we’ve long enjoyed warm relations with. Europe is a not only a huge ally and trading partner, but European travelers spend $60B annually in travel to the U.S.; this is a move that almost guarantees a drop in travel, which has downstream impact on American jobs.”
The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) has called for a number of ways to minimize the impact of a potential expansion of the ban, including exemptions for travelers enrolled in Global Entry and other, similar trusted traveler programs.
“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,” said ASTA Senior Vice President, Government & Public Affairs Eben Peck.
In a recent open letter the Business Travel Coalition (BTC) warned that expanding the ban to include flights from Europe could affect as many as 3,500 flights a week during the busy summer travel season, and 65 million passengers per year. The organization also noted that, 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 – potentially causing many business travelers to forgo or drastically cut back on trips to the region.
Meanwhile, other governments could be considering their own version of the ban. The Australian recently reported that the government of Australia is looking “very closely” at introducing a ban on laptops and other large devices.
What Travelers and Travel Agents Can Do
If the ban is expanded, Katz recommends that travelers upload vital documents to the cloud or email them to colleagues.
“Travelers also may consider getting a cheap, bare-bones laptop specifically for traveling; if travelers are forced to check them, you want to minimize the potential costs of having your laptop tossed onto the baggage carrousel,” Katz says.
Educating clients and making sure they have the proper travel insurance coverage will also be important, as checking valuable electronics could increase the risk of them being lost or stolen.
“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,” Chris Carnicelli, CEO of Generali Global Assistance, told Travel Agent in a recent interview. “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.”
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.