The ban on electronic devices carried onboard flights to the U.S. and U.K. from select African and Middle Eastern countries has been anything but uncontroversial. While the response at the level of companies and organizations has been mostly muted, travelers on such sites as FlyerTalk and InsideFlyer have expressed considerable skepticism as to both the ban’s underlying motives and its efficacy.
In the past week, flyers’ voices were joined by those of the leaders of two established air-travel organizations, the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
In a news release issued on March 24, APEX argues that the ban is both unnecessary and ineffective. There are, according to the statement, systems already in place for screening carry-on devices: “Chemical detection machines utilized worldwide can detect illicit items in electronics. Turning on electronics checks functionality and non-functioning electronics could be banned from flights. The expense of hand-searching every carry-on for the personal electronics ban could instead be directed to a long-term solution that serves airline passengers and safety.”
And, as has been pointed out elsewhere, APEX reiterated that would-be terrorists can easily circumvent the ban by flying to the U.S. or U.K. via connecting flights, rather than the non-stops targeted by the ban.
IATA’s statement on the ban, published yesterday, makes some of the same points, and criticizes the ban as “not acceptable”:
With the measures now in place, our passengers and member airlines are asking valid questions. Why don’t the US and the UK have a common list of airports? How can laptops be secure in the cabin on some flights and not others, including flights departing from the same airport? And surely there must be a way to screen electronic equipment effectively?
Good questions all, followed by an exhortation that rings increasingly true: “We must find a better way.”
Reader Reality Check
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After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.