As the Risk, IT, and Security teams await the expansion notification of the electronics ban, Travel Incorporated is providing up-to-date information and recommendations to get ahead of this situation and ensure travelers are always safe and secure.
In March, the Trump administration ordered nine foreign airlines to stop passengers from bringing laptops and other large electronic devices into the cabin for U.S.-bound flights. Two weeks ago, Travel Incorporated advised of the multiple discussions relating to an imminent threat that would cause the electronics ban to expand to inbound U.S. flights from certain European cities.
In a GBTA (Global Business Travel Association) webinar held this past week, it was advised that an announcement could be made giving the airports as few as 4 days’ notice of implementation. TI has heard that numerous conversations are ongoing with the primary U.S. airlines in preparation of an expansion or other considerations to reduce the risk of terror attacks via electronic devices, and the business travel community is continuing to take a proactive approach.
What does this mean to the traveler? TI offers these recommendations to reduce the risk.
- Simply put, if the expanded ban takes a similar approach to the current electronics ban, the business traveler will not be able to bring any electronic devices larger than a mobile phone into the airplane cabin.
- Travelers may be required to check their laptops separately at security and then collect them upon arriving at their destination.
- Travelers can pack their laptop or tablet in their checked baggage, but there is the added risk of a potential fire in the cargo hold due to the lithium battery. If they choose to pack their laptop in their checked baggage, TI recommends that the traveler remove the battery and carry it with them into the cabin.
- If travelers do elect to pack their laptop inside their checked baggage, make certain the items are wrapped securely and there is no chance of the electronics coming into contact with liquids.
What actions should you, as a Travel Manager, take in preparation for this imminent expansion?
- Review the company’s travel policy with your IT and Security teams to ensure it is up to date based on the rules of the current electronics ban.
- Prepare clear communication guidelines so the travelers understand what they need to do when traveling in affected areas and who to contact for assistance.
- Make certain you have the right data and easy access to any reports required. TI is here to help you 24/7 with any aspects of traveler tracking.
What options may be available if Travel Managers want to consider alternative flight routes?
- Review options for alternative connecting points (i.e. via Canada) into the U.S. As of this time, the DHS (Department of Homeland Security) has said that connections via Canada would not be an issue unless the U.K. or E.U. includes Canada in a separate ban expansion.
- The U.S. carriers will likely have a view of unfair advantage; however, DHS has little influence as to what the Canadian carriers can do.
- Review your reporting and analytics for top city pairs, and watch the average ticket price to consider what other options for connections may be available to your travelers.
- If you determine alternative routes would be acceptable − even likely more expensive − ensure your online booking parameters are changed so the traveler is not receiving an out-of-policy reply with approval requirement if they choose something other than the lowest fare
How should Travel Managers prepare for theft or risk of data loss?
The possibility of theft and risk of data loss is a real concern, and measures should be taken to limit any exposure. Recommendations for consideration include:
- Ensure the electronic devices are completely shut down and that all passwords are fully protected.
- Consider encrypting the hard drive or storing all data-sensitive documents in the company’s secured cloud.
- Consider loading any pertinent documents on a hard drive or thumb drive that the traveler would keep on their person.
- Consider pairing up laptops with individuals traveling together.
The inconvenience to the traveler vs. safety
- As a company who is responsible for the safety and security of our travelers, TI understands the decisions made by the DHS are intended to be strictly for reducing any risk to our employees.
- Common practice is that employees have the right to decline a trip if they feel their safety is at risk. In reviewing data based upon the current ban, travel is still taking place but via alternative routes.
- There is little doubt that additional time pre- and post-trip will be required.
What other methods are being considered or tested?
TSA announced last Friday that they are testing enhanced laptop and tablet screening as part of their ongoing program improvement measures at the ten specific airports listed below. The testing, although coinciding with the potential expansion of the electronics ban, is said to not be part of any security options connected to the ban – rather simply for
improving the current processes.
- Boise (Idaho) Airport
- Colorado Springs Airport
- Detroit Metropolitan Airport
- Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood (Florida) International Airport
- Logan International Airport in Boston
- Los Angeles International Airport
- Lubbock (Texas) Preston Smith International Airport
- Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico
- McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas
- Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport