Late last month we had some encouraging news from the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS). They announced security measures which, if implemented, will avoid a ban on passengers taking their laptops into the cabin when traveling.
Security is a top priority. And airlines don’t make compromises when fulfilling government-mandated security requirements. But the economic consequences of a ban are serious. By our estimation, a ban on laptops applied to all flights to the US would have cost the global economy well over $3 billion in direct costs and lost productivity. That’s why we suggested alternative measures to the US DHS that would keep our passengers and crew secure while avoiding such severe economic consequences.
The DHS announcement gave the industry a clear steer on what needs to be done. It also aligns with discussions taking place at ICAO as it develops the Global Aviation Security Plan. Already we have seen several airports meet the requirements and have the ban lifted. That’s all great news.
As these new US requirements extend to all airports with direct service to the US the task ahead is mammoth. And early in the process of complying with these requirements we are seeing some challenges.
The first is the timeline. There are just four months to implement. That’s challenging to say the least. It is unsure that sufficient quantities of some of the equipment required can be secured in that period. And even if it is, training staff to use it properly could well take more time than has been granted. These are important measures. So we want to get them right.
The second is the need to ever greater coordination among governments. While the US has made its requirements clear, the implementation will take place outside of US territory. And, as UN Security Council Resolution 2309 emphasized, the security of civil aviation is a government responsibility. So non-US governments need to be fully on board.
The US has, no doubt, had talks with governments around the world on the implementation of these measures. But one issue that we have yet to see clarity on is how the measures will be paid for. As we have always said, governments should not start a special security tab when their citizens step into airports or onto planes.
Dialogue among governments and with the industry has never been more critical. Airlines cannot meet these requirements alone. The scope is beyond what any private company could do. So it is vitally important that governments understand the challenges airlines face and support them.
That will involve some necessarily frank exchanges with authorities in the US and governments around the world. And in doing so, it is important to keep in focus that on an average day 11 million people will board an aircraft somewhere in the world. By far the vast majority of those do so with absolutely no ill intent. And it will take precision efforts to keep those with ill intent well away from anyplace that they can do harm.
Finally, let me assure you that raising awareness of the challenges in implementing these measures is not intended to shirk or deflect our duties as an industry. Airlines are absolutely committed to safeguarding our passengers and crew. And in doing so, airlines and governments must be realistic on the timelines needed for such a major overhaul and thorough in coordinating measures internationally.