- 2017年09月14日10:34 来源：互联网
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Airline Security——Carry On Working
Airlines seem to have dodged a wider ban on electronic devices.
The fear that business travellers on transatlantic flights might have to stop working on spreadsheets and read a good book instead had been palpable.
In recent weeks, agents at America's Department of Homeland Security had been hinting to the media that a ban on large electronic devices in the cabins of flights between Europe and America was likely.
After a meeting on May 17th in Brussels, between American and EU officials, however, reports suggest that threat has been averted.
Airlines will be rejoicing if so.
America had been expected to announce that all electronic gadgets larger than a smartphone, such as tablets and laptops, would henceforth have to be put in hold luggage.
The Trump administration (along with Britain) had already imposed similar restrictions on flights from some Middle Eastern countries in March.
It seemed security officials had got wind of a specific terrorist threat, possibly involving Islamic State (IS) , and perhaps similar to an attack perpetrated on a Somalian jet in 2016.
Then, a terrorist blew a hole in the side of an airliner using a small bomb concealed in a laptop placed against the cabin wall. (The terrorist got his timing wrong, detonated too early, and was sucked to his doom; no one else was seriously hurt. )
The reason for the apparent change of mind was unclear as The Economist went to press.
Airlines had complained that alternative security options, such as enhanced screening of passengers and their carry-on luggage, had not been fully explored.
They also warned of the dangers of storing more lithium batteries in the hold.
Such batteries, which are used in most electronic devices, have on occasion combusted and brought down commercial aircraft, including a UPS cargo plane in 2010.
A controversy over whether Donald Trump gave classified information about the risk of IS using laptops against aircraft to Russia's foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, last week, may also have had an impact on the debate, and helped airlines to avoid a wider ban for now.
They have good reason to worry about the possibility.
The transatlantic market is hugely important on both sides of the pond.
Around 31m people flew from Europe to America last year, reckons IATA, an airline industry group.
Business travellers, who rely on staying productive while in the air, would have been the most reluctant to fly laptop-free.
In any case, executives are often forbidden to put company computers in the hold for fear of theft or loss of sensitive information.
Business- and first-class seats account for only 13% of transatlantic passengers but provide half the revenue.
Following the ban in the Middle East, Emirates, a Dubai-based carrier, cut flights to America by a fifth (flyers were also put off by a strong dollar and worries about potential immigration difficulties).
If executives could not work on planes, it might cost the industries they work for around $655m in lost productivity, calculates IATA, based on an assumption that half of business-class passengers will lose five hours' working time per flight.
Research from Oxford Economics, a forecasting outfit, found that in Britain a 1% increase in business travel is associated with a ￡400m ($518m) boost to trade.
John Kelly, America's homeland-security secretary, had suggestions for business executives and families on how to cope with a laptop ban: read a book or magazine or, heaven forfend, talk to the kids.
Such tactics may not now be needed.