Last night One Mile at a Time wrote, “the electronics ban apparently won’t be expanded to flights from European to the US after all.
And maybe that’s right. A decision on an electronics ban has been put off amidst significant blowback from European governments and lobbying from US airlines. There’s been no ban announced. There’s been no formal announcement that a ban isn’t happening. Discussions of security measures in light of intelligence continue.
Sometimes bureaucracies simply announce that they’re still working on things as a way of saying they’re no longer working on them. It’s bureaucracy-speak for an unwillingness to admit error or defeat (and if it’s the outcome you’re interested in, why not allow a little face saving?). This should be familiar.
- When the Department of Transportation announced a supplemental regulatory docket to deal with proposed rules from 2014 that were never finalized regarding how the display of air travel fees during the booking process would have to change — on the last day of the Obama administration — it was a last breath statement that they weren’t taking action at all.
- Something similar happened when the Obama administration decided not to pursue the Delta/United/American case against Etihad, Qatar and Emirates. The State Department said no final decision had been made, although inaction was a final decision. Some people took the State Department literally (“That isn’t true… Talks are ongoing.”) although it seemed obvious enough what outcome had been decided.
On the other hand, Wandering Aramean says at least one source is reporting that the ban is simply delayed and will be in force by the end of the month.
The CFOs of both Delta and American spoke this morning at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch 2017 Transportation Conference about preparing for an electronics ban on flights from Europe to the U.S. and what it would mean for airline revenue. Both seemed to think that customers would be re-trained away from don’t check your laptop to check your laptop.
American’s Derek Kerr suggested that they don’t know at this point whether such a ban will be implemented.
From the beginning I’ve stipulated that there’s likely intelligence suggesting a plot to blow up a plane with a bomb in an electronic device. And even that it could be harder to trigger that device in the cargo hold than in the cabin. Although at the same time a bomb in cargo, and all lithium ion batteries in cargo, isn’t necessarily better. And this Yemeni bomb making expertise has been a concern since at least 2014.
Implementation delays suggest that the threat isn’t as existential as previously portrayed by the US administration. The lack of policy mirroring abroad (though the US has pressured Australia to follow suit and they’ve said they’re considering it) also is suggestive that the specifics here are weak and the actual safety improvements from such a policy modest… at best.
ISIS Reportedly Purchased an Airport Security Play Set on eBay
Meanwhile the cost to the economy – estimated at a billion dollars – is surrendering to the same terrorists. Reduced business travel and the concomitant reduction in economic activity that follows, reduced productivity, risking exposure of data and theft of devices are all real concerns. Lithium ion battery fires that are outside the ability of crew to extinguish is a real concern. Airport security that can’t catch dangerous items now — even when they’re not hidden inside laptops — is a real concern. And we’re never going to be 100% safe… nor would we ever agree to do the things which could get us close to that.