Now that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has moved a ban on electronics inside the airline cabin to the no-go list for the time being, passengers everywhere are breathing a sigh of relief. Business travelers will have their laptops to keep them productive. Children will have their video games to keep them quiet. All is calm in the aluminum tube.
Not to cast a pall over this seemingly triumphant moment, but isn’t the recent removal of a ban is more of a reprieve than a commitment? Guidelines issued by the DHS must continue to be honored.
DHS head John Kelly has made it clear that if foreign airports do not adopt stringent new security measures in a timely manner, the ban could be reinstated. And European Union (EU) Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos confirmed to a gathering at the recent Munich Aviation Security Conference that an electronics ban is “still on the table.” But the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has acknowledged that “early in the process of complying with these requirements we are seeing some challenges.”
After all, the ban was instituted as a measure to address online terrorism chatter about new and improved methods of threatening civilization’s safety in large public places as well as mass transportation. The costs of a reinstated ban would be staggering: experts say such a ban “could cost airlines and passengers in excess of $3.3 billion a year” while the “economic impact of lost productivity due to (a) laptop ban on European flights was estimated at $500 million per year.”
Unfortunately, the linchpin of air travel safety, the security checkpoint, has become one of the most frustrating parts of airline travel. Although passengers value their security, it’s obvious from observing a long, winding checkpoint line that they value their time and don’t want to be delayed or inconvenienced.
Airports that have invested millions in creating hospitality and retail meccas to attract a larger share of the 2.5 million passengers on more than 26,500 flights each day could expand their competitive advantage if they make the security checkpoint process fast and friendly.
There’s a win-win for airports, airlines, passengers, and the government agencies trying to keep us safe if they work together to adopt a tested technology solution that screens personal electronic devices for explosives. It needs to be easy to use, compact, virtually fool proof, and work in seconds with the power to address emerging threats.
The alternative to a long-term solution is a lingering possibility of an electronics ban that would put a multi-billion-dollar dent in the travel and tourism industry, exacerbate irritation at the security checkpoint, and erode confidence in our government’s ability to protect us.
The infographic below highlights traveler frustration as well as the benefits of adoption of advanced screening technology for electronic devices.