MONTREAL May 9 A United Nations agency has
launched efforts to craft global guidance for the use of laptops
and other portable electronics in aircraft passenger cabins
after selective bans by the United States and Britain, made in
response to security threats, angered some passengers and Middle
The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has
pushed forward with the plan after certain countries like the
United Arab Emirates and Egypt complained their airlines were
being unfairly penalized by the American and British bans, which
relegate laptops and other portable electronics to the cargo
hold on certain routes, three sources familiar with the matter
But while ICAO is expected to come up with global
recommendations to counter the risk from hidden explosives in
laptops used in passenger cabins, the agency cannot stop
countries from imposing bans, said one of the aviation industry
sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks
In March, the U.S. announced laptop restrictions on flights
originating from 10 airports in countries including the United
Arab Emirates, Qatar and Turkey, which impact major
international carriers including Emirates, Qatar
Airways and Turkish Airlines, but not U.S.-based
carriers, none of which fly to those airports.
Britain's restrictions, which quickly followed, do not
include the UAE or Qatar but will affect Turkish Airlines and
UK-based carriers including British Airways, easyJet
An ICAO working paper seen by Reuters reaffirmed concerns
that laptops are a greater security risk in the passenger cabin
than in the hold, because of the threat that hidden explosives
could be detonated manually. But it has asked its experts to
weigh this against the risk of putting devices with flammable
batteries unattended in the baggage compartment.
ICAO's aviation security panel is expected to make
recommendations on device restrictions by mid-June, an ICAO
spokesman said by email.
Montreal-headquartered ICAO, which met on Tuesday to discuss
the ban, does not impose rules, but holds industry clout in
setting safety and security standards for international aviation
that are usually followed by its 191-member countries.
ICAO has been asked "to identify a possible global approach
to mitigate the security risk associated with large portable
electronic devices," according to the paper.
"The threat to aircraft from concealed improvised explosive
devices has been the greatest security risk to commercial
aircraft for some years," the paper said, citing two explosions
in 2016 at airports in Somalia because of IEDs concealed in
Some countries, such as Australia, are introducing new
security checks, but not bans, on flights from certain Middle
East countries to combat the risk of hidden IEDs.
During an informal ICAO briefing in April, some countries
like the UAE complained that the ban risks creating "market
distortions," that would give certain carriers advantages over
others, the three sources said.
The ban could deal a blow to fast-growing Gulf airlines
serving business-class passengers who want to work on their
laptops on flights out of hubs like Dubai and Doha.
A spokeswoman for the UAE's civil aviation department could
not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
(Reporting by Allison Lampert in Montreal, additional reporting
by Tim Hepher in Paris and Alexander Cornwell in Dubai; Editing
by Bernard Orr)