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Turbulent Skies Ahead: Travel Industry Braces for Electronic Ban Expansion

Earlier this week, a JetBlue flight was diverted after a lithium-ion laptop battery caught fire in a passenger’s carry-on. According to Business Insider, this occurrence exposes one of the major dangers associated with the Trump Administration’s laptop ban, which is currently imposed on 10 airports in eight Middle Eastern and African countries.

The possible expansion of the ban to Europe has raised many concerns for travel managers and business travelers alike, prompting GBTA to host a webinar entitled Turbulent Skies Ahead: Travel Industry Braces for Electronic Ban Expansion. Private Jet Services’ Greg Raiff led a panel discussion with Oracle’s Rita Visser and IBM’s Shari Quackenbush to analyze the potential repercussions.

USA TODAY claims there are around 400 flights from Europe to the United States on a typical day. If the current ban is extended to Europe, as many as 65 million passengers could be affected on a yearly basis. Greg noted that Department of Homeland Security spokesperson David Lapan says the ban will “likely” be expanded, although there is no set timeline for a decision to be made.

In addition to the increased risk of cargo fires caused by lithium-ion batteries, the laptop ban raises issues when it comes to airline ticket pricing. Rita explained how the current landscape puts carriers that are exempt from the ban at a major advantage, since a majority of travelers prefer bringing their devices on-board. Due to high demand, flights that allow travelers to bring their devices on-board have limited inventory, inevitably leading to increased fares. If the ban is ultimately expanded, all airline carriers will be on a level playing field from a pricing standpoint.

Another concern lies in policy compliance and the lack of adequate guidelines for circumventing the ban. In most cases, online booking tools drive travelers to book the lowest fare, not taking into consideration the needs of the traveler or limitations of the ban. Will exceptions be made for individuals who prefer to travel with a laptop but must book a higher, out-of-policy fare to do so?

In any case, travelers should be equipped to work effectively in the absence of their devices. Shari suggested travelers carry necessary documents on thumb drives or external hard drives and locate a hot spare at their destination. Travel managers can also facilitate better experiences by having open conversations with their travelers and reviewing situations on a case-by-case basis.

GBTA members may view the webinar in full through the Hub. These sessions are just around the corner:

  • Travel Risk Management: Understanding it and managing it! (Wednesday, June 7 – 9:00 AM ET)
  • Maximizing Hotel Commissions: How to boost your earnings and make your collection process more efficient (Thursday, June 8 – 2:00 PM ET)
  • Balancing Traveler Satisfaction with Program Compliance (Tuesday, June 13 – 2:00 PM ET)
  • Hotel Rate Auditing: Don’t Leave Money on the Table! (Wednesday, June 14 – 10:00 AM ET)

The full schedule of webinars is available here.