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Incoherent device bans are damaging business travel

March 31, 2017 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Current bans on electronic devices being carried on airlines operating from various points in the Middle East are confusing, ineffective and “defy common sense”, according to a major international business travel group.

The Association for Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE), headquartered in Virginia, USA and comprised of executive-level members in more than 100 countries, has expressed continued concern about “the unclear guidance contained in the device ban”.

ACTE executive director Greeley Koch aired a few points:

  • While safety remains a top priority, the ban itself allows for numerous loopholes, ultimately rendering it ineffective.
  • The burden this ban places on business travellers is enormous – not only does it contribute to lost productivity, but it also creates information security headaches for businesses.
  • Some companies are already looking to implement solutions, such as equipment exchanges, that allow travellers to access information and equipment while on the road, but these workarounds remain imperfect.

Koch’s full letter to members follows:

I wanted to reach out to you with a personal message based on member feedback about the new electronics ban on flights originating in the Middle East. We also want you to know that we will continue to advocate on behalf of you and your travellers in this fluid travel environment.

Shortly after the new rules were announced, I reached out to a few ACTE members – buyers and suppliers. Based upon their insight, we at ACTE were able to craft a response that balanced security and traveller safety with practical considerations.

As you may have seen in various news articles and the release we issued (accessed via this link), our belief is that safety is paramount. But the current restrictions defy common sense. Assuming there is dangerous new technology, a terrorist could just as easily inflict damage when flying to the US or the UK from any airport anywhere in the world – including Europe or even within the US or UK – not just those in the Middle East.

Also supposing the risk is real, why do the US and UK e-bans cover different countries – including, in the case of the US, the Abu Dhabi airport, which is a US pre-clearance facility?

Answers are needed now. Without further explanation, these new restrictions will only breed scepticism of the government’s perception of business travel.

Given the current restrictions, some companies anticipate launching computer exchange programs so that employees would not have to travel with their primary laptop/tablet.

This would allow travellers access to critical equipment and information – without risking proprietary data.  But these are early days. As time passes, more questions – and solutions – will come to the fore.

Edited by Peter Needham

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