May 11, 2017 / 2:44 PM / 3 months ago

EU demands urgent talks with Washington over airline laptop ban

3 Min Read

BRUSSELS, May 11 (Reuters) - The European Union has demanded urgent talks with the United States over a possible extension of a ban on passengers taking laptops into the cabins of commercial aircraft to include some European countries, saying any threats faced are common.

The Trump administration is likely to extend the ban already applicable to flights originating from 10 airports including in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey because of fears that a concealed bomb could be installed in electronic devices taken onto aircraft, officials said.

In a letter to John Kelly, Secretary of Homeland Security, and Elaine Chao, U.S. Secretary of Transportation, and seen by Reuters, the EU executive said it was important that information concerning possible threats involving EU airports be shared.

"We therefore reiterate our willingness to pursue constructive dialogue and we propose that meetings are held as a matter of urgency, both at political and technical level, to jointly assess the risk and review possible common measures," wrote Violeta Bulc, EU Transport Commissioner, and Dimitris Avramopoulos, Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship.

While no decision has yet been taken, any restrictions could hit major European carriers such as Lufthansa, British Airways, Air France-KLM and industry sources have said airlines and airports have already been working on possible contingency measures.

The United States imposed the ban in March and was quickly followed by Britain which imposed restrictions on a slightly different set of routes.

European aviation security experts are meeting in Brussels on Thursday to consider possible responses to any extension of the ban. Two EU officials said the discussions had so far concentrated on maintaining a common front.

The EU Ambassador to the United States will meet with Kelly in the coming days to discuss the issue, one of the officials said.

"It is in our common interest that we work closely together to address developing threats in aviation, in advance of any potential applications of new security measures to air carriers operating from the EU to the U.S.," the Commissioners wrote.

Malaysia Airlines CEO Peter Bellew told Reuters on the sidelines of a CAPA Centre for aviation conference near Dublin that an extension of the laptop ban would be a "pity" and make it more difficult for people to travel.

"I do think it is going to have a fundamental impact on travel to north America and I don't think that is going to go away quickly," Bellew said.

European regulators have warned placing what could be potentially hundreds of devices in the hold on long-haul flights could compromise safety by increasing the risk of fire from poorly deactivated lithium-ion batteries. (Additional reporting by Conor Humphries in Dublin and Victoria Bryan in Berlin, editing by David Evans)

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