by Michael J. Shapiro | March 21, 2017
Travel organizations are responding to the electronic devices ban just issued by the Department of Homeland Security. As of Tuesday, airlines flying directly to the U.S. from any of 10 airports in eight Middle Eastern/North African countries must prevent passengers from carrying on any electronics except for smartphones, cell phones or medical devices. The carriers have 96 hours to comply with the DHS directive or risk being banned from entry to the U.S.
 
While travel organizations support the measure if it comes in response to a specific security threat, there is concern in the industry about insufficient communication around the ban.
 
"The American travel community supports efforts to make flying more secure," said Jonathan Grella, executive vice president for public affairs at the U.S. Travel Association. "We urge the federal government to make every effort to minimize disruption to legitimate travelers by clearly and quickly articulating the details of the new policy to enforcement personnel and the flying public. Even with security as a justification, it does not absolve authorities of the responsibility to communicate.
 
"As with all security policies," continued Grella, "we further urge that this new security measure be continually reassessed moving forward to ensure it remains relevant and effective in the ever-shifting threat environment. We continue to hope that highly visible changes to security protocols in the future will be accompanied by a clear message that the government's intent is not to suppress, but to secure travel, and that legitimate international business and leisure travelers remain welcomed and valued by the United States."
 
The concern for security was echoed by Michael W. McCormick, executive director and COO of the Global Business Travel Association. "GBTA strongly believes the security of our skies is of the utmost importance," McCormick said. "We support TSA's efforts in securing our airways and believe they should take all necessary steps to do so." 
 
McCormick added that his organization was in the process of collecting member feedback about the measure and awaiting additional information from the DHS about potential threats. He also, however, expressed concerns about the measure's potential effects on the business travel in general.
 
"Nearly half (49 percent) of business travelers prefer to stay connected and get work done while flying," McCormick noted. "Not allowing them to bring their devices on the plane cuts productivity, taking away time that they can be getting business done. Many business travelers also prefer to keep their devices close for security purposes because they might contain sensitive company information.
 
"If it is in the best interest of security, business travelers are willing to comply with these types of measures," he added. "We encourage DHS to continue to adopt trusted-traveler programs and expand preclearance to ensure that resources can be effectively allocated to detecting threats to homeland security."