Intel sharing at heart of US, Europe talks on laptop ban


A European Commission spokesperson says US and European officials are not expected to make a decision Wednesday when they meet to discuss plans to broaden a USA ban on in-flight laptops and tablets to include planes from Europe.

USA officials have defended the ban as a measure to thwart terrorist attacks, saying that intelligence shows that ISIS is developing smaller bombs that could be concealed in electronic devices.

Last week there were reports claiming that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was just about ready to ban any laptops from being in the passenger cabin on any flights between the European Union and the US.

European officials met their American counterparts in Brussels on Wednesday to discuss aviation security, days after a potential expansion of the ban was first reported.

The meeting followed a call on Friday in which Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly and several EU commissioners discussed the matter, a European Commission spokesman said.

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The new laptop ban would work like the current one from the Middle East, except that it would affect all flights from Europe to the U.S.

The group estimated a $1.1 billion impact on passengers per year due to lost productive time, longer travel time and harm to "passenger well being".

The internationally-respected pilots union said: "Lithium battery fires, unless caught early can spread quickly and therefore official ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) advice is that devices should be kept in the cabin so that any potential fires can be spotted and extinguished before they enter a state known as "thermal runaway" - at which point they are nearly impossible to extinguish". The decision came one day after an worldwide group of airlines wrote a strongly worded letter to the European Union and the US State Department blasting the proposed ban.

But European aviation safety officials are alarmed at the prospect of large numbers of electronic devices powered by lithium batteries being carried in the holds of passenger aircraft.

"It had appeared so clear that the ban was going to be imposed that it would be a surprise for it to be dropped over night after one meeting", said the source.

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In March, Washington banned passengers from eight countries in North Africa and the Middle East from bringing laptop computers, tablets and other electronic devices larger than cellphones as carry-on items.

"Secretary Kelly has made no decision on expanding the restriction on large electronic devices in aircraft cabins, but the decision is now under consideration", the senior official said.

Any extension of the ban could affect USA and European airlines such as United UAL.N , Delta DAL.N , American Airlines AAL.O , Lufthansa LHAG.DE , British Airways ICAG.L and Air France-KLM AIRF.PA .

Pace University management professor Andrew Coggins Jr. pointed out that putting laptops in checked bags "exposes them to theft and damage", and inconveniences business travelers who may also use their laptops during long worldwide flights.

Alarmed at the proposal, which airline officials say is merely a matter of timing, European governments held talks with their USA counterparts on Friday.

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