Laptop ban extension could cost industry over $1bn each year, airlines warn

Australia won't be following America and the UK in banning electronic devices on planes

The meeting included representatives from seven European Union countries - the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Ireland, Spain and Italy - sources told POLITICO.

"Our initial estimates indicate that any expansion to Europe will have significantly higher negative impacts than the existing measures", de Juniac wrote. The measure would cost passengers $655 million in terms of lost productivity, $216 million from longer travel times, and $195 million for the rental of loaner devices on board, it calculates.

Officials from the USA and the European Union met Wednesday to discuss a potential expansion of the ban, with immediate action delayed, but more talks on security measures promised.

A joint EU-US statement issued after the meeting said: "At the meeting, both sides exchanged information on the serious evolving threats to aviation security and approaches to confronting such threats".

Officials from both sides of the pond believe the threat is real enough that remarkable measures are being taken to ensure passenger safety.

The US ban on electronics was put in place in March and affects about 50 flights a day from ten cities, mostly in the Middle East. Business travelers are trained to keep their company-owned laptops, tablets and other gadgets with them at all times for security reasons.

While the ban appears to be off the table for now, there's a chance that it could still expand-and not just to Europe. Last year, the UN's aviation agency banned passengers from storing spare lithium batteries in their checked luggage.

On Tuesday, a U.S. official told CNN that various countries were "in a tizzy" over the issue.

Earlier this week it warned of huge disruption at European and USA airports if any such ban was approved and significant delays, since more security staff would need to be recruited over a period of weeks, so effectively causing mayhem.

Earlier this month, CBS News reported talks were underway about expanding the laptop ban to cover flights between the United States from Europe.

Transatlantic flights are among the most lucrative for airlines, because they can sell premium seats to business travelers. Some US and European airlines have been planning for a wider ban, industry officials have told Reuters. Foreign carriers affected are Pegasus Airways, Atlas-Global Airlines, Middle East Airlines, Tunis Air and Saudia.

Air travel is already a miserable and undignified experience, as United Airlines recently made painfully clear. The DHS also cited the explosion at Brussels Airport a year ago and other incidents.

Combined, the four airlines account for almost 60% of all nonstop flights from Europe to the U.S. The intelligence came from a USA partner and was considered so sensitive that it was distributed among only a small circle within the US government and withheld from broader sharing among English-speaking allies that US intelligence agencies do as a matter of course. "It's a disaster", said Vijay Aggarwal, CEO of xCelor, who travels extensively between Europe and the U.S.

"I think it's ridiculous", said Victor Robert Garza, a military researcher and instructor at the U.S. Navy Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.

- Rene Marsh contributed reporting.

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