European authorities are still resisting a U.S. initiative to expand a laptop ban in airline cabins by questioning the potential safety risks, according to three people with knowledge of the discussions.
At a meeting in Brussels on Wednesday, EU officials demanded the U.S. provide more specific information on how the risk of explosion of large electronic devices is greater in airline cabins than in cargo holds and why a ban is more appropriate than stepping up existing measures, said the people. They asked not to be identified because the discussions are private.
Even as negotiations are scheduled to continue next week in Washington, one European official said they were left with the impression that a ban is all but certain, as the U.S. authorities claimed they possess strong evidence about a threat. A separate official said the EU is still pushing for alternative options, including tightening security screening, and would reciprocate any unilateral decision by the U.S. government to ensure that no side gains a competitive advantage.
While air travel has been a major terrorist target for decades, industry and government officials are wary of further security measures that would cause major disruption to passenger comfort. The issue also adds to tensions between continental Europe and the U.S. government after revelations that President Donald Trump passed on intelligence to Russia about a plot to turn laptops in airplanes into weapons, while keeping his EU partners in the dark.
The two sides sought to reassure their “commitment to continue working together,” with a joint statement by the European Commission and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday. While no ban was announced after Wednesday’s meeting, the two sides agreed to “further assess shared risks and solutions for protecting airline passengers, whilst ensuring the smooth functioning of global air travel.”
One of the officials said that airlines and airport authorities are already bracing for an imminent extension of the ban, which was first introduced for incoming flights to the U.S. from some Middle East destinations. A second official said flights from the U.K. would also be included in a potential ban and the country’s authorities are preparing to respond.
–With assistance from Lyubov Pronina
©2017 Bloomberg L.P.
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