The US authorities agreed not to expand the ban on bringing laptops into aircraft cabins for flights from Europe to the US. For now. This US decision takes into account Europe’s safety concerns of storing hundreds of devices – including their batteries – in a baggage hold. The severe fire hazard related to these batteries – as also ECA had pointed out in a position paper – cannot be overlooked as a threat and needs to be carefully assessed before measures like a ban should be considered.
No laptop ban for now. But the measure is still not completely written off
The good news is that after weeks of uncertainty, political and expert meetings between the EU and the US resulted in a decision to explore alternatives and weigh the risks and benefits of such a ban. Several stakeholders, including the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), ECA and IATA highlighted possible safety risks that such a ban can bring along – risks that would by far outweigh any anticipated security benefits. Curing one evil by another – far bigger one – can hardly be the way forward.
Hundreds of electronic devices in a baggage hold would constitute a severe fire hazard – should the lithium batteries in those devices catch fire: hard to detect and very difficult to contain. With current airplane cargo hold fire suppression systems, it might prove to be impossible to extinguish a lithium battery fire, especially when the batteries are stored close to each other.
In any case, the efforts of EU authorities to take a balanced and reasonable decision, deserves praise. But as the US authorities seem to lean towards a zero-tolerance approach to security threats, it is likely that the ban will not be written off easily as a measure. To be continued…