FILE - In this Saturday, April 17, 2010, file photo, a traveler from Malaysia uses his laptop computer at Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam, Netherlands. International air travelers might soon rediscover magazines, paperbacks and playing cards. Airline passengers have become hooked on their laptops and tablets to get work done or just kill time during long flights. But U.S. aviation-security officials appear determined to ban large electronic devices in the cabin of flights from Europe. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong, File)

Business, leisure travelers ponder flying without laptops


International air travelers might soon rediscover magazines, paperbacks and playing cards.

Airline passengers have become hooked on their laptops and tablets to get work done or just kill time during long flights. But U.S. aviation-security officials appear determined to ban large electronic devices in the cabin of flights from Europe.

Business travelers are worried about lost productivity, laptops in checked baggage being stolen or damaged, or even leaving the machine home if their employer won't let them check it on a plane. Parents are pondering how to keep children occupied.

On Wednesday, U.S. and European Union officials exchanged information about threats to aviation, believed to include bombs hidden in laptop computers. Airline and travel groups are concerned about the possibility that a ban on laptops and tablet computers that currently applies to mostly Middle Eastern flights will be expanded to include U.S.-bound flights from Europe.

The officials agreed to meet again next week.

The airlines are still talking to government officials about how a laptop ban would look at European airports. It will require one set of screening rules for U.S.-bound travelers, another for people headed elsewhere.

Nearly 400 flights leave Europe for the U.S. each day, carrying about 85,000 people, according to airline industry and U.S. government figures. The flights are popular with vacationers and critical to many business travelers, who often buy pricier tickets.

The laptop ban in March covered far fewer flights — about 50 on an average day — and hurt Middle Eastern carriers by targeting their hub airports. Emirates blamed the ban among factors reducing demand when it scaled back flights to the U.S.

Expanding the ban to Europe will hit American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines and their European partners, and it will affect many more travelers.

Airlines fear that expanding the ban will lead to more flight delays and increase their liability for theft or damage to electronics devices in checked luggage. Safety advocates worry that putting devices with lithium batteries in the cargo hold will create a fire threat.

Airline groups propose several alternatives to the laptop ban, including more use of machines that detect residue from explosives, turning devices on to demonstrate that they are not bombs, and sorting low-risk passengers from high-risk ones, presumably to let frequent travelers keep their laptops in the cabin.

Business travelers are keenly interested in the outcome.

Michael McCormick, executive director of the Global Business Travel Association, said he believes the threat identified by security officials is real, but the laptop ban will hurt business travel, at least in the short term.

"There are a certain amount of things you can do on your smartphone to stay in contact," McCormick said. For laptops that must be checked, he added, companies will take steps to better lock down information contained on them "and then just deal with the short-term challenges and loss of productivity."

The International Air Transport Association, a trade group for global airlines, said banning laptops in the cabin would cost passengers $1.1 billion a year, mostly in lost productivity for business travelers.

"Businesses will cancel trips rather than risk having laptops checked due to risk to confidential information," said the group's CEO, Alexandre de Juniac.

Edward Pizzarello, an investor in a Washington-area venture-capital firm who also writes a travel blog, is holding off booking a July business trip to Germany and the United Kingdom "until I figure out what's going on."

Pizzarello won't put his everyday laptop in checked luggage — "too much sensitive info." So he might buy a cheaper machine to use on the outgoing flight and while in Europe, then wipe it clean before checking it on the return flight. He is also considering flying back through Canada to sidestep the ban, although that would likely cost more.

"Maybe I don't take the trip," he said. "That's one of the options. It's not my first option."

David Lewis, who operates a human-resources consulting firm in Connecticut, said he would prefer closer inspection of his laptop over getting on a plane without it.

"I will wind up working four to five straight hours, which is like 15 in an office because of the lack of interruptions," Lewis said of his trans-Atlantic flights. "It's going to have an adverse effect on how often I'm going to make those trips."

Rachel Winard, who owns a skin-care products company in New York, writes on her laptop during flights to and from Europe. She said she will use her cellphone — those aren't covered by the ban — to answer emails.

"It's not a deal breaker," she said of not having her laptop, "but it is definitely time that I would happily use for my work."

Small business consultant Gene Marks said he and many of his clients work when flying to and from Europe. Still, he tried to put the annoyance of a ban in perspective.

"I would be more anxious if there was a bomb on my flight," Marks said. Besides, he said, he sees plenty of business travelers who spend the flight sleeping.

Many leisure travelers use laptops and tablets to while away the hours watching movies or playing games, or to keep their kids entertained. They might have to turn back the clock.

"It is worth remembering that families were flying together for a few decades before digital entertainment came along," said Eileen Gunn of travel website FamiliesGo. "Maybe this is a good excuse to rely a bit less on electronics for both parents and kids."

© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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I travel for business frequently, sometimes with 3 laptops, as Im going to trade shows and the like.

I see the likelihood of damage quite high if checking in all those items, which would leave me in a terrible position when I arrive... let alone the lost time on an average 10hr flight.

If you end up on some old United Plane, or a budget airline you might not even have any entertainment for the duration of the trip, read a book you may say, and I suppose I will have to have one or two incase but I see likely increase in onboard "rage" as we have seen lately as people get frustrated, annoyed and bored.

This is a serious imposition, for which the risk reduction seems minimal and questionable..

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Why only Europe and the Middle East--why not Asia or any long-haul flights? And this:

"Parents are pondering how to keep children occupied"

Is just plain silly. Airlines have what, 50 odd kids' films and TV series and some basic games on offer. Or just give them a book for god's sake.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Not all airlines have in-seat entertainment, in-fact some rely on the devices they are now restricting...

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I would have thought more danger from fires of laptop batteries if they are stored in the cargo hold. Will it include iPads too?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

During the flight, there's plenty to do. Never had an issue filling time. It is the 2+ hrs pre-flight, after checking luggage that I'll miss my chromebook. Usually don't bother during the flight with it.

I'm very interested in the size limits on this.

OTOH, there are many, many, many ways to harm an aircraft, especially a pressurized aircraft, in flight. Any engineer should be able to think of at least 20.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@zichi ... Exactly. And if terrorists are able to turn laptops into bombs, how will banning them in passenger cabins but not as cargo make any difference?

@NZC2011 ... I also do business travel. I can live without my laptop on short flights. But on long flights I do work on my laptop - it's not only a good use of my time, but it also allows me to be more ready when I arrive. I agree that the risk of damaging or losing the laptops is a real concern.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

When arriving at the checkin your luggage is not checked or searched. You answer a few questions and its loaded onto the plane along with the mini bomb inside a laptop although a determined bomber could even build it into the actual suitcase and then set it off by a mobile phone. The PAN AM Lockerbie bombing was not inside a laptop and still one of the worse terrorists attacks on a plane. If a laptop is shown to be working then its unlikely to contain a bomb.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I just use my smart phone and tablet. Laptop is getting too big now. They should call them portable - like in the older days. Also, I do not want to risk the chances of getting stolen or even opening it up allowing people outside of my company to view them (even it is password protected, but anything can be cracked given enough time).

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Ok ban laptops but allow to people who have a need to apply for a pass.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I travel between 50 and 75K miles a year usually. Travel with a 13in chromebook - under 2 lbs, 10+ hrs of battery, 128G of storage running a full Linux desktop. It is a beautiful thing, if you don't need local access to MS-Windows programs. I have remote VPN access to Windows programs. As a security guy, I really don't want Windows on a network that I cannot trust.

Security could just weigh each laptop as their method to limit risk. Asking us to power them up is fine, but someone inclined could make a sufficient part of the battery out of non-battery stuff and leave less than 10% for "show and tell" with the security people.

Tried to travel with just a tablet on a long international trip. Had all sorts of issues that I couldn't solve.

If you want to know how to harm a plane, it really isn't hard to imagine ways. There are TV shows with vague examples: 7 Days, The Unit, Strike Back, and probably 50 others.

@zichi - all bags ARE searched in the USA behind counter area. There are scanning machines and dogs trained for drugs and explosives there. The machines have a high false-positive rate. If you enter your trip from a small airport without the scanners, your bags get searched when/if you arrive at larger hubs. However, I will agree that not all international airports do scan bags. Europe, Canada, USA, Japan, South Korea, Turkey - are places I'm not worried. Places like Nepal - I worry.

I'm still amazed at how much wasted time we are willing to put up with world-wide over this highly infrequent issue.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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