IATA sent out an urgent call to governments to come up with alternatives to the US and UK’s bans on larger electronic devices in some aircraft cabins.
The two countries recently impose new rules requiring airline passengers flying nonstop on inbound flights from various airports in the Middle East and Northern Africa to place any device larger than a cellphone in checked luggage.
In a speech to the Montreal Council on Foreign Relations, IATA director general Alexandre de Juniac said:
"The current measures are not an acceptable long-term solution to whatever threat they are trying to mitigate. Even in the short term, it is difficult to understand their effectiveness."
He noted that both passengers and airlines are asking "valid questions" about rules.
"Why don’t the US and the UK have a common list of airports? How can laptops be secure in the cabin on some flights and not others, including flights departing from the same airport? And surely there must be a way to screen electronic equipment effectively?"
The UK rule applies to direct flights to the country from Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia.
The US ban applies to nonstop flights from 10 airports in Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
No US airlines will be affected; none fly nonstop from any of the countries on the list.
Nine airlines based in the region are affected by the US ban.
Britain’s rule will affect six UK airlines and eight foreign carriers.
The differences in the US and UK lists of affected countries caught the eyes of some players in the airline industry, who observed that the U.S. list includes Qatar, Dubai and Abu Dhabi and the UK list does not.
The countries are home to the Middle East’s Big 3 airlines – Qatar Airways, Etihad and Emirates – which have been engaged in a war of words with the Big 3 in the U.S. – American, Delta and United – for more than two years.
The U.S. lines say their Middle Eastern counterparts receive government subsidies – disallowed under their Open Skies agreements – that enable them to expand their US operations and offer lavish premium cabins.
The so-called ME3 scoff at these complaints, saying the US lines should stop complaining and start competing.
Meanwhile, the commercial distortions created by the new electronics rules “are severe,” de Juniac said.
“We must find a better way. And governments must act quickly,” he said.
DeJuniac noted that there was “no prior consultation and little coordination” with the airline industry by the US and UK.
“Cooperation between industry and governments yields a better result,” he said.
In May, ICAO member states will address that issue and consider amendments to Annex 17 of the Chicago convention that would require information sharing.
“The security experience of recent years should compel states to support this,” said de Juniac.