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APEX Insight: APEX has called for a hold on the potential expansion of the US electronics ban to include flights from Europe, favoring instead a solution that would use facial recognition to white-list passengers already cleared to carry electronics on restricted routes.

The Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX) has called for a hold on the potential expansion of the US electronics ban to include Europe, favoring a solution that would involve biometric screening.

“Having the electronics ban spread to the European Union for flights to the United States would damage the personal freedoms integral to international air travel,” said APEX CEO Joe Leader, after Department of Homeland Security spokesman David Lapan told reporters on Tuesday that the agency is considering expanding the ban beyond the Middle East airports that are currently affected.

“Biometric identification of passengers that are pre-cleared to travel with electronics would enable a viable potential solution.” – APEX CEO Joe Leader

Speaking from Aviation Festival Americas in Miami, where biometrics has been a hot topic, Leader suggests using facial recognition to white-list passengers already cleared to carry electronics on restricted routes. This would also support the US Department of Homeland Security’s initiative to accelerate a biometric entry/exit visa program. “Biometric identification of passengers that are pre-cleared to travel with electronics would enable a viable potential solution with the Department of Homeland Security ready to provide immediate technological facilitation,” Leader said.

The electronics ban, which has been effective since March, has affected nine airlines on flights originating from Jordan, Qatar, Kuwait, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey. In response to the ban, Emirates has dropped flights to five US cities, while Turkish Airlines and Etihad Airways have implemented temporary solutions to loan laptops and tablets to passengers to use on board. Britain has since followed with a similar ban on six Middle Eastern countries.

According to APEX, the US electronics ban has prompted carriers to cut back service from airports affected by one million annual long-haul passengers. “Fighting potential threats means finding government solutions that do not take the laptops, tablets, e-readers, cameras, and large phones out of the hands of the millions of law-abiding passengers that use them every day,” Leader said.

Caroline is managing editor at APEX Media.