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Laptop ban on European flights will create 'economic tsunami'


EU leaders have been warned that US proposals to extend a ban on laptops in carry-on bags to European flights could create 'an economic tsunami of the likes of which terrorists are dreaming of'.



The warning from business travel leaders was contained in an open letter to the EU as it prepares to meet with the US Department of Homeland Security to discuss its proposals tomorrow.



In the letter, addressed to EU transport commissioner Violeta Bulc, Business Travel Coalition chairman Kevin Mitchell said that such a ban could even threaten the survival of some European airlines.



The Trump administration has already banned passengers from taking large hand-held electronics into the cabin on flights to the US from 10 mainly Muslim countries due to fears terrorists could hide a bomb in such devices.



It has recently discussed with US airlines the possibility of extending the ban to flights from certain Europe destinations, which some believe could take effect any day.



A ban would affect major European airlines, including British Airways and Virgin, and would probably also extend to US carriers.



In his letter to the EU, Mitchell said extending the ban to Europe would affect 3,500 flights a week this summer, hit 65 million passengers a year and 'slam business travel'.



"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," he wrote.



Mitchell said that if business travellers were forced to check-in laptops, many would not fly at all due to the risk of them being lost or stolen, backing up a UK survey which found that a ban would deter one in three from flying.



"Most organizations - corporations, universities, governments - will not allow employees to check laptops, most of which have sensitive information on them. IT chiefs and risk managers are very conservative and assume everything on a laptop is sensitive - emails, contacts, hiring, marketing and sales strategies, new product diagrams," he said.



"As such, well beyond lost inflight productivity, the significantly larger consequence of a potential electronics ban is if, for example, a business traveler is going to London for a week, he will not have his laptop with him. That for most business travelers will be an absolute no-go, deal breaker. That's where a dramatic falloff in business travel demand would be based. A monthly trip to London becomes a once-a-quarter one.



"It only takes a relatively small number of business travelers to stay home to make a flight unprofitable and consequently drive down demand for and yields on all Business and First Class seat sales."



Mitchell said there was evidence that this was already is happening on flights from the Middle East, where the US imposed a laptop ban last March.



"Despite creative efforts by Gulf carriers such as gate-side check-in, separate secure inflight storage and dedicated arrival pick-up, not to mention onboard loaner tablets, early indications are the negative impact on bookings has been significant," he said.


Airlines are also warning that a ban on electronics in cabin bags could lead to chaos at airports this summer, as passengers might not be aware of what devices they can and cannot take onboard, and they are worried that packing electronics with lithium batteries into check-in bags will create a fire risk in the hold.


Mitchell urged the EU leaders to consider whether the security threat was significant enough to risk both that and the financial consequences of such a ban and queried whether alternatives had already been considered and ruled out.
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