Gilberto Lopez Meyer, IATA’s senior vice-president of Safety and Flight Operations. Image via IATA

APEX Insight: IATA is aiming to raise awareness of the regulations for traveling with personal electronic devices.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) will launch, in July, an awareness campaign to help airlines communicate to passengers the dangers involved in carrying personal electronic devices in checked baggage.

The move follows growing concerns about the potential danger of such devices in checked baggage. IATA has been working with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) on the issue and recently conducted two surveys, involving airlines and passengers, to determine the risk profile, Gilberto Lopez Meyer, IATA’s senior vice-president of Safety and Flight Operations, said at IATA’s Annual General Meeting in Sydney yesterday.

IATA found that many passengers are carrying prohibited items in their checked baggage, such as power banks and spare batteries, which are considered higher risk and could potentially ignite when not in use. Non-compliance is high due to a lack of awareness of the regulations, or of the potential consequences, Meyer said. Although IATA’s research has determined that incidents related to the carriage of PEDs in checked baggage is very low, according to Meyer, the risk is potentially high.

“By trying to control an issue [a perceived terrorist threat] we created a safety issue.” – Gilberto Lopez Meyer, IATA

A social media campaign will kick off in July, with IATA communicating directly to passengers, as well as providing airlines with material and infographics to communicate the message. Last year’s restrictions on the in-flight carriage of laptops on certain flights to the United States operated by Middle East and North African carriers has further caused confusion among passengers, with the IATA campaign aimed at increasing awareness and improving compliance with regulations. Last year’s US PED restrictions also highlighted to the air transport industry that “we need to have better communication with authorities and countries before those measures are implemented”, says Meyer. “By trying to control an issue [a perceived terrorist threat] we created a safety issue,” he adds.

The industry and governments have learned from the issue, with Henrik Hololei, the European Commission’s director general for mobility and transport telling IATA AGM delegates that the industry needs to be consulted on such issues. The latest security threat to airlines, that of chemical weapons being carried onboard aircraft in the form of powders, is being handled much better than the PEDs issue, Hololei said, with “much more engagement and more reaching out to industry”.

Mark Shield, head of Group Security at Virgin Australia, said the powder threat could result in countries limiting the amount of powder products passengers bring on board.