BRUSSELS (Reuters) - U.S. and EU officials meet in Washington this week for further talks on aviation security, as the EU braces for an extension of a cabin ban on large electronic devices to U.S.-bound flights from Europe.
The EU has over the last two weeks given the United States information about measures taken by the EU to improve security and has raised the safety risks posed by having large numbers of devices with lithium-ion batteries in the hold.
The EU fears the United States has already made up its mind to extend the ban on flights from Europe to the United States and has told airports and airlines to be prepared, according to notes from a meeting, seen by Reuters, in which the European Commission debriefed industry representatives and member states on the result of talks with the United States.
The notes from the debriefing, the day after officials from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security met with European counterparts last week, said the impression was that the decision had been taken and that the more the EU engaged with the United States the more the decision could be deferred.
Fears that a bomb could be concealed in electronic devices prompted the United States to announce in March that it would restrict passengers from bringing devices larger than cellphones onto flights originating from 10 airports, including those in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey. Britain followed suit with restrictions on a slightly different set of routes.
A U.S. official said after the meeting last Tuesday there was no link between this week’s meetings and a decision on extending the ban, meaning that if the intelligence pointed to a decision being made soon, Washington would so do regardless.
An EU official said meetings would start on Tuesday and go on all week.
Any extension of the ban could affect U.S. and European airlines such as United, Delta, American Airlines, Lufthansa, British Airways and Air France-KLM.
According to airports association ACI Europe, there are 3,684 weekly flights being operated between European airports and the United States.
The United States gave no indication on which European airports could be affected by an extended ban, the notes said.
If a decision is made, the United States will give the EU an advance notice of about three weeks, the notes said.
Additional reporting by Victoria Bryan in Berlin, editing by David Evans