No, We Still Don’t Know Whether or Not There Will Be an Electronics Ban on Flights From Europe

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.

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.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. […] Will There Be An Electronics Ban From Europe?:  Who knows???  As of right now, it seems that the ban has been put off, however things could change.  There has been some push back from Europe and the airlines regarding these bans.  There are some contradicting stories flying around the internet, but my guess would be that it’s going to happen eventually. […]


  1. If they do insist on implementing such a stupid and pointless ban, one thing they could do to mitigate the effects slightly would be to exempt Global Entry holders from the restrictions. Obviously, not all Europe-US travelers are eligible for Global Entry, but US and UK citizens are. It would also be very easy to police such as exemption through either flagging Global Entry status on a boarding pass (effectively already done for US-based carriers in the form of Precheck) or by requiring showing a Global Entry card at secondary screening.

  2. +1 Drew. The irony is that the ban will make everyone less safe as we all know checked baggage screening is mediocre. And many countries (e.g. Nigeria) actually have more thorough screening than incompetent TSA drones because they mandate mandatory hand screening of all carry-on bags at the gate (or random screening, in the case of Mexico).

    The better solution would be to require all devices to power up (as used to be the case) or as a fallback permit passengers to carry on kindles and perhaps ipads (with or without mandatory power up).

    The one size fits all ban is not properly tailored to serve the objective.

  3. The terrorists are achieving their goals of instilling fear and economic damage, without a single detonation.

    Why do we (the public at large that is) obsess over airline security…acting as if anything less than 100% guaranteed safety is unacceptable. Yet we gladly accept much greater risks in our daily lives from everyday things and situations. If the government started to restrict purchase, ownership, and usage of automobiles the way it conducts airline security, there would be a rebellion.

    @Boraxo – supposedly the bomb techniques are such that some of the battery can still be left intact and thus allowing the person to power up the device and show that it functions even with the explosives inside the battery. No idea if that’s true or not but that’s the party line supposedly.

    Nor do we know if these new bomb techniques are (relatively) easy to construct and use in the real world…or other details to even begin to understand the likelihood of this threat materializing and then matching appropriate measures.

  4. Most airlines have an upper limit of what they will pay for damage or theft in checked luggage. If all electronics (including laptops and cameras) are mandated to be checked, I would l like the DHS to also mandate that the airlines are responsible for the FULL VALUE of the article lost, stolen, or damaged. I know there is an international agreement on what the maximum reimbursement will be, but I bet DHS overrule that if it wanted to.I think you shouldn’t be able to mandate that something valuable be taken away from your immediate care, and then say the people handling/caring for that article that they don’t have full responsibility for that article.

  5. and we all know terrs would never think of doing this from flights from Asia, right ?

  6. Looks like the terroists won this one by disrupting business travelers and other passengers who use electronics. It’s causing lots of stress and talks about the issues.

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