APEX Insight: APEX has produced tips to help airlines prepare for a possible expansion of the electronics ban, ranging from guidelines for safely storing personal electronic devices in cargo to suggestions for navigating a potential backlash on social media.
An expansion of the electronics ban could come with short notice, so passengers and airlines must be prepared for quick changes which would impact the in-flight experience. With European Union and US transport and security officials set to meet in Brussels today regarding the ban, APEX has put together five tips to ready the passenger experience industry for any possible outcome.
Airline Safety Readiness: Airlines should be careful to place personal electronic devices in different sections of cargo. As publicized by IATA and ICAO, by placing all personal electronics together in cargo, an airline could inadvertently overwhelm the cargo fire suppression systems. Given the possible surge of lithium-ion batteries in cargo, airlines should review the ability of their fire suppression systems.
Airport Gate Readiness: Many airports are not set up with closed areas for travelers continuing to the United States. In preparation for a potential expanded electronics ban, APEX encourages airlines to have an emergency preparedness plan for screening processes, as well as a secure area for flights to the United States. Such protocols would likely necessitate checking additional electronics at the gate.
Passenger Experience Readiness: APEX encourages airlines with long-haul flight service to the United States to develop contingency plans for airline-provided tablets, laptops and USB keys. Under the current US Department of Homeland Security electronics ban directive, airlines are allowed to provide these units to passengers as long as they remain under airline security control. With phones potentially being the only person electronic devices allowed on board, airlines should consider expanded duty-free offerings of charged supplemental batteries for sale as needed.
Airline Customer Service Readiness: As many airlines have recently experienced, passengers video record and share in-flight incidents which can then garner national media attention – with negative experiences outpacing positive ones. With that in mind, APEX encourages airlines to prepare their teams now to handle the added stress and frustration of a possible expanded electronics ban. APEX encourages airlines to find and highlight good moments in this video age of social media. Additionally, APEX will continue the APEX Heart Awards program, which celebrates instances where crew members go above and beyond in service.
Encourage Government Alignment and Approved Solutions: All airlines worldwide consider safety and security paramount; however, the industry has never before seen such a divergent approach taken by one nation in comparison to others. APEX encourages airlines to work with their governments and leading airline industry associations to make their voice heard on behalf of passengers. If the electronics ban expands to flights from Europe to the US, it could lead to even more international governments placing stricter rules on checked lithium-ion batteries. If that happens, international governments could then impose the same restrictions on flights from the United States – which would more significantly impact travel and the industry as a whole.