Laptop Bans Harm Tourism and Airlines

Banning laptop computers from airplane cabins could not only harm safety, but also the tourism industry. Such bans reduce air travel to the U.S., judging from a story yesterday in Politico:

Air travel from the Middle East to the United States fell for the first time in seven years after DHS prohibited passengers from carrying large electronics in-cabin on flights from some airports in the region, according to the International Air Transport Association.

The portable electronics ban went into effect at 10 Middle Eastern and African airports in March. IATA said that its data for that same month shows travel from the Middle East to the U.S. was 2.8 percent lower than it was for the same time the previous year. March is the most recent month for which the group has collected the route-level data for that region.

This was the first annual decline recorded for this market in at least seven years, IATA said.

“[T]here are indications that passengers are avoiding routes where the large PED ban is in place,” IATA Director General and CEO Alexandre de Juniac said in a statement.

DHS is considering expanding the electronics ban to Europe and other regions at some point in the future. IATA has warned that the industry would lose an estimated $1.4 billion if Europe-to-U.S. flights were included in the ban.

CEI has filed a Petition for Rulemaking opposing a ban on laptops on transatlantic flights. As we noted earlier, banning laptops in airline cabins could harm passenger safety. That’s because doing so would concentrate flammable lithium-ion batteries (which power laptops) in the cargo hold, potentially causing the airplane to explode. As Bloomberg News notes, “there have been 160 ‘incidents’ involving lithium-ion batteries in cargo holds since 1991. In 2010 and again in 2011, cargo planes carrying pallets of the batteries caught fire and crashed.” In 2016, “the F.A.A. issued a warning about transporting batteries in the cargo hold, noting that ‘a lithium battery fire could lead to a catastrophic explosion.’”

Travel Weekly says that business travelers are likely to reduce travel to the U.S. if the aircraft laptop ban is extended from Middle Eastern airports to all transatlantic flights: “A 79% majority of 112 corporate travel managers [polled] suggested travellers would trim travel,” especially for business. That could wipe out thousands of jobs in the tourism industry.