New US Security Rules Raise Questions

Passengers travelling from 10 airports in eight Middle Eastern and African countries to the US will be barred from bringing laptops and other large electronics into the cabin as carry-ons, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced.

DHS is taking this step in response to “[e]valuated intelligence [that] indicates that terrorist groups continue to target commercial aviation, to include smuggling explosive devices in various consumer items.”

The U.K. has since issued a similar ban, and it’s reported that Canada is reviewing the situation.

Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) executive director Michael W. McCormick issued the following comment, “GBTA strongly believes the security of our skies is of the utmost importance. We support TSA’s efforts in securing our airways and believe they should take all necessary steps to do so. We are awaiting more information as to whether this addresses a specific security threat and also reaching out to our members to assess the impact on business travel.

“Nearly half (49%) of business travellers prefer to stay connected and get work done while flying. Not allowing them to bring their devices on the plane cuts productivity, taking away time that they can be getting business done. Many business travellers also prefer to keep their devices close for security purposes because they may contain sensitive company information.

“If it is in the best interest of security, business travellers are willing to comply with these types of measures. We encourage DHS to continue to adopt trusted traveller programs and expand PreClearance to ensure that resources can be effectively allocated to detecting threats to homeland security. We look forward to continuing to work with TSA to find ways to continue to encourage business travel as global business travel spend topped $1.3 trillion in 2016 and is projected to reach $1.6 trillion by 2020.”

The latest round of security restrictions on flights out of the Middle East sparked other inquiries from global business travel managers to the Association of Corporate Travel Executives, as companies representing thousands of business travellers, raised issues of their own.

“Without any explanation, the United States government banned major electronic devices that constitute the basic tools of business travel from the cabins of flights from select airports in the Middle East. Now the United Kingdom has followed suit and Canada is reported to be giving the issue serious consideration,” said ACTE Executive Director Greeley Koch. “But the restrictions make no sense. Assuming there is a new terrorist technology, there is nothing to stop someone from carrying one of the these devices to Amsterdam and then boarding a flight to the US or the UK.”

Koch added, “Does the Department of Homeland Security know about a threat so great that it can’t be shared with the business travel industry? Or are these latest restrictions about to resonate as the new norm the world over? Speculation rivals uncertainty for bad news in the travel industry. Answers are needed now.”