MONTREAL — U.S. and British bans on electronic devices don’t improve airplane security and raise doubts about the credibility of the entire global security system, the head of the International Air Transport Association said Tuesday.
IATA CEO Alexandre de Juniac called on governments to work with the transportation industry to ensure passengers aren’t separated from their laptops, tablets and other devices.
“This measure is not acceptable in the long-term and even in the short-term it is difficult to understand the effectiveness of this measure,” he said in a speech to the Montreal Council on Foreign Relations.
The U.S. and Britain have prohibited electronic devices of certain sizes from cabins in flights originating from some countries in the Middle East and Africa.
Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau said Tuesday that officials are meeting in Brussels with allies and experts on the issue and assessing the information.
“Our government remains vigilant in continuously assessing our security measures and will not hesitate to take further action when needed,” he said in an email.
De Juniac said he hopes more governments don’t join the ban, saying the industry needs to work with authorities to find appropriate measures. He also said putting all these devices with lithium batteries in the belly of aircraft creates other safety concerns because of the risk of fire.
“If they think there is a threat, is there a more appropriate measure, more efficient than the one that is so questionable,” he told reporters.
De Juniac said the association representing airlines doesn’t have any details about the nature of the threat or how long the bans will remain in place.
He said it’s an “odd situation” that the U.S. and U.K. bans don’t apply to the same countries and other countries are hesitating to join.
“The fact that many people are questioning these measures is a problem on the credibility of the whole system.”
The U.K. government measures affect direct flights from Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia. The U.S. ban affects U.S.-bound flights from airports in Jordan, Kuwait, Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
That means someone departing Dubai in the United Arab Emirates on a direct flight headed for the U.S. will have to store their devices. However, someone flying to London and then connecting on another flight to the United States would not have to store their devices.
Meanwhile, De Juniac also urged Ottawa not to privatize the country’s airports, saying experience indicates it hurts a country’s competitiveness by increasing the cost of flying and compromising levels of service.
“Canada will regret it if the crown jewels are sold,” he said, adding that the world’s top airports, including Singapore, Hong Kong and Dubai are not in private hands.
De Juniac said privatization will worsen the competitiveness of Canada’s transportation sector, which has already been hit by fees to cover $5 billion in charges as airport owners.