Business World

Wednesday 22 November 2017

European laptop ban deleted for now, but case isn't closed

Olivier Jankovec, Director General, ACI Europe, speaking at ACI’s Regional Airport Conference and Exhibition hosted by Cork Airport. Photo: Joleen Cronin
Olivier Jankovec, Director General, ACI Europe, speaking at ACI’s Regional Airport Conference and Exhibition hosted by Cork Airport. Photo: Joleen Cronin
Mark Evans

Mark Evans

The last few days saw a victory for common sense, following widespread reports from respected aviation industry commentators that Donald Trump's administration would extend the airline laptop ban to European airports.

Following talks in Brussels between the European Commission and America's Department of Homeland Security, the laptop ban has failed to get off the ground.

It's reported that the EC team "was assured by their US colleagues that the meeting signalled the start of an era of better communication on security issues under President Donald Trump".

Outspoken Washington lobbyist Kevin Mitchell - interviewed for this column in recent weeks - warned that extending the ban, which affects some Middle Eastern and North African airports, to US-bound flights from Europe would be business suicide.

He said that while the current ban "affects 350 flights a week", a ban from Europe "could affect 3,500 flights a week this summer and 65 million passengers per year". In an open letter to the EC, he said: "The economic risk to airlines and the travel and tourism industry is in order of magnitude greater than the threat from pandemics, volcanoes or wars. This is serious."

Mitchell's view that such bans "would slam business travel demand, harming airlines, the travel and tourism ecosystem, organisations fielding business travellers and economic activity levels because of lost transactions. Simply put, the ripple effects of this could create an economic tsunami of the likes of which terrorists are dreaming of but instead it would be at the hand of government directive".

He also argued - in a view shared by many others - that confining laptops to cargo holds in planes, away from cabin passengers, would increase the risk of fire on the 150,000-plus EU-US flights per year, due to "hundreds of lithium batteries stored there" per flight.

While Mitchell is certainly outspoken, the fear of fire was also expressed by a safety expert from the British Association of Pilots, among others.

And the Airports Council International Europe, holding a conference in Cork last week, wasn't pulling its punches either. The ACI, headed by Olivier Jankovec, complained that media rumours of an extension of the ban showed "a lack of meaningful security cooperation between the EU and the US.

"This is not conducive to effective security and potentially compromises trust in the aviation security system."

And, worryingly for Dublin Airport - Europe's fifth busiest for transatlantic services with 179 flights a week - a laptop ban would have caused havoc in terms of operations and security.

For now, laptop bans are off the table, but there's still concern, with officials admitting after the Brussels meeting that other measures are still being considered.

  • US carrier Delta is to launch a new daily seasonal service between Dublin and Boston next Thursday - operated by Boeing 757-200s.

The numbers 757 might bring back bad memories of workhorse aircraft best suited to US internal routes plying the transatlantic trade in the past. But Delta's 757s are a notch above that, and will offer its well-received First/Business hybrid Delta One. The full-frills cabin offers fully flat-bed seats, mostly with direct aisle access, and a range of seasonal dining options accompanied by wines selected exclusively for Delta by a Master Sommelier.

Other premium perks include Westin Heavenly Inflight Bedding from Westin Hotels & Resorts and TUMI amenity kits featuring products by Kiehl's Since 1851. There's onboard Wi-Fi too, and fares are keenly priced, but seem to be selling fast upfront for the upcoming weeks.

  • The recent survey of American passengers (over 4,000 interviewed in all), had the surprising revelation that 10pc have had sex in an airport.

The mile high club comes second, with 8pc admitting to lust in the air, despite the cramped spaces found onboard aircraft bathrooms. British Airways' oddly-designed A380 Business Class bathrooms, on the other hand, could host a Roman orgy given their spaciousness (not a recommendation; just saying).

While the hoi polloi admit to antics in airport terminals, it's a bit worrying that 12pc of those who've done the bad deed carried it out in a business lounge.

Disturbing news which gives a whole new meaning to the words 'eight-hour layover'.

Sunday Indo Business

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