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Thu 4 May 2017 12:38 PM

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Airline industry must avoid repetition of ‘temporary liquid ban’

Comment: Why is it “insecure” to travel from Dubai to New York with laptops, but fine to board a London-bound plane at the next gate?

Airline industry must avoid repetition of ‘temporary liquid ban’
(YASSER AL-ZAYYAT/AFP/Getty Images)

Aviation is the safest mode of long-distance travel. Every day 10 million passengers are transported safely and securely to their destinations. And aviation is an iconic target for terrorists.

Be reassured that flying is secure. And the industry and governments are determined to keep it that way. That commitment is seen right up to UN Security Council, which expressed its resolve to further strengthen international cooperation for aviation security in September. Governments, with their security and intelligence resources, have the primary responsibility. But we are in this together. This is why airlines were quick to comply when the US and the UK governments imposed restrictions on the carry-on of large electronic devices by passengers on direct flights originating from certain airports in the Middle East and North Africa.

The difficulty of meeting that challenge should not be under-estimated. There was no consultation and little coordination by governments prior to the implementation of the ban. Even when it was implemented, the industry was left with a number of key 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? Also how do we address safety concerns arising from large numbers of lithium batteries in the aircraft hold?

For passengers travelling from affected airports such as Dubai, the gaps in logic are very apparent. For example, why is it “insecure” for a passenger to travel from Dubai to New York direct with their laptops in the cabin but fine for those boarding a London-bound plane at the next gate? Even if they may be connecting onwards to New York?

Public confidence in the security of the global aviation system is critical. And it is being tested by these unanswered questions. As speculation increases regarding a possible expansion of the ban to other airports and regions, the concerns regarding its effectiveness must first be addressed.

A repetition of the ‘temporary liquid ban’ must be avoided. This ban was envisaged as an interim restriction to be lifted yet the rules persist to this day even though technology can do the job. The near overnight implementation of the liquid ban nearly brought airports to a standstill, crippled flight networks and traumatised baggage systems that could not cope with the increase in the number of items. And today passengers still suffer experiencing increasingly long queues, intrusive checks and inconsistent procedures that create natural frustrations.

Without compromising on security, we need to find less disruptive alternative means. We are asking for industry dialogue to answer the concerns around the electronics ban and have started this process through the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Our goal is simple, important and aligned with that of governments — to keep passengers and crew secure and for the public to have confidence in our ability to do that.

Working together, we must find alternatives that will keep you flying secure and your electronic devices in the cabin!

Nick Careen – IATA, Senior Vice President, Airport, Passenger, Cargo and Security.

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