US laptop ban may be affecting air traffic

Traffic on Middle East-US routes has declined for the first time in seven years
Traffic on Middle East-US routes has declined for the first time in seven years

The US ban on laptops and tablets on flights from certain Middle Eastern and African airports appears to be impacting passenger traffic.

IATA’s figures for March 2017 – the most recent month available – shows that passenger traffic on flights operated by Middle East airlines to the US fell 2.8% year-on-year during the month. This marked the first annual decline recorded for this market in at least seven years.

IATA noted that traffic growth on these routes was “already slowing”, but added that the decline “is consistent with some disruption from the PED (personal electronic device) ban that was announced 21 March”. The airline association also said that the Trump administration’s proposed travel bans on certain Middle Eastern nationals could be having a “wider impact on inbound travel to the US”.

And IATA’s director-general & CEO, Alexandre de Juniac, warned that an expansion of the restrictions could have a severe impact on air travel and the broader global economy.

“Demand for air travel remains at very strong levels. Nevertheless there are indications that passengers are avoiding routes where the large PED ban is in place,” said de Juniac. “As the US Department of Homeland Security considers expanding the ban, the need to find alternative measures to keep flying secure is critical.

“If the ban were extended to Europe-to-US flights, for example, we estimate a US$1.4 billion hit on productivity. And an IATA-commissioned survey of business travellers indicated that 15% would seek to reduce their travel in the face of a ban,” he added.

Despite these threats, global passenger traffic rose by 10.7% year-on-year in April 2017, partially driven by lower airfares. After adjusting for inflation, the price of air travel in the first quarter of 2017 was around 10% lower than in the same period last year.

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