Security fears that lead to airline laptop ban should have been shared

Sharing information on threats to flights would be more effective than banning people from some countries taking electronic devices on planes, officials and safety experts at the World Aviation Safety Summit in Dubai said.

DUBAI // Sharing information on threats to flights would be more effective than banning people from some countries taking electronic devices on planes, officials and safety experts at a summit said.

Ruben Morales, general manager of corporate safety at Hong Kong Airlines, said the US ban on devices for flights from 10 Middle East airports was futile.

“We are in a highly connected world now so if there is a person who wants to trigger an explosive device in an airplane flying to the UK or US, they’ll look for other ways,” Mr Morales said.

“They will look at the weakest point in the system and it could be any other airport. Sharing information will enhance security instead of targeting specific airlines or airports.”

The US ban stopped passengers from Abu Dhabi and Dubai, Riyadh and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Jordan, Morocco, Egypt and Kuwait, carrying laptops, tablet computers, game consoles in cabins.

A later ban by the UK did not include the UAE and Qatar.

Mr Morales said the US and UK should also share with aviation authorities of the regional countries any of their technology that can help to avoid threats to commercial flights.

“If there is intelligence that there is a real threat and there is technology in place in other airports like in the US or the UK, why don’t they share this information with the civil aviation authorities in the Gulf countries to put this technology in place?” said Mr Morales.

“If there is a screening technology in other airports to detect a bomb or some device that can cause an explosion, then instead of introducing a ban let’s introduce the technology to detect the threat.

“If there is solid intelligence of a security threat then the Americans and British should share the technology with other countries so they are able to detect threats as well.”

Khaled Al Arif, Dubai Civil Aviation Authority’s executive director of safety, said such a ban should have come from the International Civil Aviation Organisation, not from the US and the UK.

“Such regulations will come from the ICAO after proper research and not from individual countries based on particular airlines,” Mr Al Arif told the World Aviation Safety Summit in Dubai on Wednesday.

The organisation is a UN agency that sets global aviation safety and security standards that are usually adopted by its 191 member countries.

Mr Al Arif said that the banned countries should also have been given time before the rules were enforced.

“There should have been a time frame for countries to prepare,” he said. “A regulation adopted today and implemented at the same time, that is unfair.”

Business travellers and residents said that if the ban extended beyond October, it would affect travel to the US and UK on Arabian Gulf carriers.

“The Abu Dhabi and Dubai airports and safety systems are world class, and they have special intelligence systems,” said Murali Krishna Putta of Enoc Aviation. “But there could be a 10 per cent drop in the long run if this continues.”

Emirates has made devices available on loan to first and business class passengers. Etihad Airways has also offered its premium passengers iPads in response to the ban.

“Now it will all depend on how the airlines continue to react” said Yusuf Sadiq, safety manager with an infrastructure company. “This ban is transparent – it’s purely a political and business move.”