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Potential laptop ban on Europe flights could cause hassles for travelers

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As U.S. and E.U. officials meet to discuss expanding a ban on laptops, tablets and other large electronic devices in carry-on bags to flights from Europe to the United States, airline industry observers have raised concerns.

Some worry an expansion of the ban could lead to a reduction in travel to the United States from Europe and cause frustrations for travelers.

“Such an announcement would clearly negatively impact point of sale Europe to the US, as the US could become a less desirable place to travel,” wrote Cowen airline analyst Helane Becker in a note to investors.

Pace University management professor Andrew Coggins Jr. pointed out that putting laptops in checked bags “exposes them to theft and damage,” and inconveniences business travelers who may also use their laptops during long international flights.

International Air Transport Association CEO Alexandre de Juniac wrote a letter to U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and European Commission Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc on Tuesday expressing “serious concern regarding the negative impact” an expansion of the ban would have on passengers, airlines and the global economy.

IATA said businesses will cancel trips “rather than risk having laptops checked due to risk to confidential information.”

Airlines will also incur additional costs due to extra baggage handling, delays due to increased baggage screening, liability due to theft/damage and potential reduced flights, according to IATA.

The group estimated a $1.1 billion impact on passengers per year due to lost productive time, longer travel time and harm to “passenger well being.” It also said increasing the number of lithium battery-powered devices in the cargo hold could affect safety.

An extension of the ban to Europe would affect 390 flights per day. according to IATA. Last year, 31 million passengers flew from Europe to the United States.

In his letter, de Juniac urged short-term measures including additional screening at checkpoints to inspect devices.

An expansion of the restriction would increase the number of passengers affected by a ban announced earlier this year.

In March, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced a ban on large electronics for passengers on flights to the United States from airports in Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. The policy means that no laptops, tablets, e-readers, cameras, portable DVD players or other personal electronic devices larger than a cell phone or smart phone are allowed in carry-on baggage for passengers on those flights.

The policy was due to intelligence indicating that terrorist groups are “pursuing innovating methods to undertake their attacks, to include smuggling explosive devices in various consumer items.”

The Airline Passenger Experience Association said if the ban is expanded, affected travelers should use cloud services to access documents and files from their phones on flights with wi-fi access, and can buy a small folding Bluetooth keyboard for their phone, or carry files on a USB drive.

The association says travelers should also consider buying supplemental insurance for their electronic devices, since some plans exclude personal electronics in checked baggage from coverage.

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