A meeting between European Union (EU) and US officials over a potential widening of the ban on laptops and tablets in hand luggage has ended in agreement to hold further talks in Washington DC, during the week of May 22.

On May 17, EU commissioners Violeta Bulc and Dimitris Avramopoulos met a delegation led by US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) deputy secretary Elaine Duke May 17 in Brussels.

The meeting was held to discuss concerns over the US extending a device ban—which currently applies to US-bound flights from some Middle East and North African airports—to include some transatlantic flights from Europe.

At the close of the meeting, the two sides issued a joint statement, committing to follow-up talks.

“At the meeting, both sides exchanged information on the serious evolving threats to aviation security and approaches to confronting such threats. Participants provided insight into existing aviation security standards and detection capabilities as well as recent security enhancements on both sides of the Atlantic related to large electronic devices placed in checked baggage.

“The US and the EU reaffirmed their commitment to continue working closely together on aviation security generally, including meeting next week in Washington DC to further assess shared risks and solutions for protecting airline passengers, while ensuring the smooth functioning of global air travel,” the two sides said.

Several aviation stakeholders have warned the ban creates serious safety worries because it increases the risk of uncontained lithium battery fires in the hold.

IATA director general and CEO Alexandre de Juniac voiced “serious concern” in a May 16 letter to Bulc and Kelly, saying an extended ban would cost passengers $1.1 billion per year, damage the economy, impact airline operations and create a heightened lithium battery risk.

“The current US personal electronic device (PED) ban affects 350 flights per week from the Middle East and North Africa. If this ban were extended to Europe as a whole, it would impact 390 flights per day (over 2,500 flights per week),” he said in the letter.

De Juniac also put forward a series of short-term measures as an alternative to a wider broad extension of the current ban, including improved explosives screening and detection, additional security training and heighted passenger surveillance.

ACI Europe has voiced concerns about the significant operational disruption of an extended ban, including the need for a very large number of additional security staff, ad-hoc gate screening for each flight, special loading processes to get the electronic devices into the hold of aircraft and possible grouping of US flight gates for the new measures, putting extra pressure on already stretched infrastructure.

There are 3,684 direct flights between Europe and the US each week, operated across 59 European airports. Roughly 50% of this total is operated from five key airports: London Heathrow (761 weekly flights), Paris Charles de Gaulle (353 flights), Frankfurt (291 flights), Amsterdam (242 flights) and Dublin (179 flights). “Based on a sample of European airports, the number of passengers carrying PEDs is estimated to be between 60% and 90%,” ACI Europe said.

Victoria Moores victoria.moores@penton.com