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US May Issue Worldwide Laptop Ban, FAA List of Lithium Fires

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Presumably, under the premise that you can make a bad situation better by making it bigger, there are reports that the US Administration is now considering a global ban on the carriage of large electronic devices onboard flights bound for the US.

This news comes less than a week after Delta apologised for signage posted at CVG (Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport) and photographed by a passenger which suggested an electronics ban might extend to all countries.  The airline stated the sign was posted in error at the time and removed the placard.

While a global electronics ban is, at least, closer to the security protocols one might expect for a major threat to aviation, such as after 9/11, and shows no preferential treatment for any airline, it is still an extremely problematic policy.

Airlines already affected by the ban have experienced a significant drop in passengers bound for the US, with reductions of premium fare passengers (most of them business travellers) especially damaging to profitability.

IATA estimated costs to passengers from a ban on transatlantic flights from Europe to the US at $1.1 Billion, one can safely assume that the figure for a global ban would be even more staggering.

ACI EUROPE warned of severe flight disruptions resulting from the procedures required to comply with a ban.

Were the ban to be extended globally, airports and airlines around the world would face incredible logistical challenges ahead.

Security and safety are not always convenient

This said, we cannot under estimate the desire of some to do harm to aviation. If the threat is serious, then there may be no alternative.

What bears considering is that intelligence sharing on the nature of the threat has been mixed. Some countries which have received information from the have determined no such measures are necessary.

Applying a global ban would also magnify the safety risk of lithium battery fires onboard aircraft to unprecedented levels.

This is not an imagined risk. It is a very real risk. A partial list of fire incidents published by the FAA shows that this risk is very real and has been intensifying in recent years as electronic devices become more common travel companions.

 FAA List of Lithium Battery Fire incidents

LITHIUM BATTERIES & LITHIUM BATTERY-POWERED DEVICES

Aviation Cargo and Passenger Baggage Events Involving Smoke, Fire, Extreme Heat or Explosion Involving Lithium Batteries or Unknown Battery Types

As of March 27, 2017, 152 air/airport incidents involving lithium batteries carried as cargo or baggage that have been recorded since March 20, 1991.

It is important to note that, of those, 8 have occurred so far in 2017 and 32 occurred in 2016.  

FAA Note: These are recent cargo and baggage incidents that the FAA is aware of. This should not be considered as a complete listing of all such incidents. The incident summaries included here are intended to be brief and objective. They do not represent all information the FAA has collected, nor do they include all investigative or enforcement actions taken.

In an effort to more closely focus on lithium battery events, this list has been revised to include events involving lithium or unknown battery types.

This list does not include three major aircraft accidents where lithium battery cargo shipments were implicated but not proven to be the source of the fire: An Asiana Airlines 747 near South Korea on July 28, 2011, a UPS 747 in Dubai, UAE on September 3, 2010 and a UPS DC-8 in Philadelphia, PA on February 7, 2006

The Skies Have Changed, and Security Measures Need to Keep Step with Travellers

Modern travellers cannot be expected to leave their electronics behind. For this reason, proposals from the industry to find better measures of screening and to institute pre-clearance programs for known travellers are rational and should be given consideration.

Last, it continues to bother me that the possibilities of a detonation in the hold are being underplayed as the laptop ban dialogue goes back and forth. We know that such an event would be equally catastrophic.

Better screening methods, and pre-clearance procedures, would address this risk as well, without making air travel impractical for millions.

UPDATE: Letter from Greeley Koch, Executive Director
Association of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE), regarding  extended electronics ban

Are you prepared for an expanded electronics ban?

That is the question I posed yesterday to a group of buyers. The responses I received are telling. One buyer said, yes, she’s already coordinating with the IT department and others to develop travel policies that protect company assets, both physical and intellectual property.

One buyer said they will just leverage video conferencing.

The reaction of other buyers was the look one gets when they just realized they hadn’t turned in their homework assignment on time, and would have to explain to their parents why they failed the class. We’ve all been there and had that look.

But to have that look now on an expanded travel ban is what has caused me to write this letter to you.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is reviewing plans to extend its laptop ban to all U.S.-bound flights from Europe, with the additional possibility of further expanding the ban in the months to come.

We have been vocal in our response to an extended ban, as we believe economies around the world, including the U.S., are set up to lose—big time. This ban will severely hamper travel to the U.S. and elsewhere, and it hits us where it hurts the most: lost productivity for businesses and major disruptions to the airline, hotel and ground transportation industries. The lost revenues from tourism are also significant and cannot be ignored.

But as before, the ban continues to leave numerous questions up in the air. Couldn’t would-be terrorists circumvent the policy by travelling through Asia or other non-EU member countries, creating the need for a global ban? Will other countries follow suit and further cripple the travel industry?

Business travellers want and need to be productive, and few will be willing to check their laptops. Businesses will also have to invest in alternative solutions to help their employees access laptops and other devices at their destinations.

If there’s one upside, it’s that this ban might create opportunities for busy travellers to rest. But entertainment options on flights are limited, and for some airlines, dwindling. The ban also affects tablets, the most viable alternative to laptops for entertainment and work alike. This is no silver lining.

We urge governments to revisit this ban to ease the burden businesses are now facing. We should be instead investing in policies and security screening techniques that take a comprehensive look at the threats facing travelers instead of focusing on such a small piece of the puzzle.

Please don’t have that look if and when an extended ban in announced. Get ready now.

As always, I want to hear from you on ideas your company is considering to adjust to an extended electronics ban. Please email me at gkoch@acte.org. Keep your eyes on our blog, ACTEChatter, in the coming days where we will anonymously post how others are tackling this challenge. Let’s share ideas now!

Thank you.
Regards,
Greeley Koch
Executive Director
Association of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE)
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2 Replies to “US May Issue Worldwide Laptop Ban, FAA List of Lithium Fires”

  1. Oh Marisa, “Ban It All” made me smile. The content of course, is despair-inspiring, but I immediately thought of “Home James, and Don’t Spare the Horses” with its ludicrously thoughtless, impulsive, and inhumane overreaction to a perceived problem.
    https://youtu.be/HEXR80Ut100
    From 0:15-1:25 sums up for me, the whole ethnocentric snafu.
    Thanks for yet another informed and informative post.

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