Airline Industry Says Expanding Ban On Laptops Would Cost Travelers $1 Billion

Image courtesy of Karen Chappell

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has banned any electronic device larger than a smartphone from the cabins of flights from 10 airports in the Middle East and Africa, and is considering extending the ban to flights from Europe as well. This has airlines freaking out because it means banning laptops from thousands of flights, not hundreds, and a trade group representing the airlines estimates that an expanded ban would cost travelers $1 billion.

Part of that total is putting a price tag on lost time, since the airlines’ global trade group, the International Air Transport Association, predicts that implementing a ban would mean travel delays and widespread inconvenience. It puts the tab for those delays at $216 million, while also estimating lost productivity from being unable to work on planes at $655 million, and $195 million for the expense of renting airline-owned devices while in the air.

Airlines, meanwhile, would have to deal with the logistical problems of collecting and storing devices, the additional fire risk of having devices with lithium-ion batteries stashed in cargo holds instead of in the cabin, and taking on the liability if the devices are lost, stolen, or damaged in transit.

“Traveling with your laptop is part of everyday life,” the trade group’s CEO told Bloomberg News in an interview this morning. “We are not sure that this ban is adapted to the threat. We don’t know what is the basis or intelligence that justifies this measure.”

The trade group argues that the U.S. could consider other measures against the possible threat of bombs disguised as electronic gadgets, like more intensive screening for explosives and wider use of pre-screening program for frequent travelers like the Transportation Safety Administration’s PreCheck.