File picture: Lefteris Pitarakis

Johannesburg - The International Air Transport Association, which represents 265 airlines comprising 83 percent of global air traffic, wants governments to urgently find alternative to a recent electronics-on-board ban.

Recently, the US and banned large electronic equipment being carried on board on flights to the US from specific destinations and on certain airlines.

On Wednesday, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) called on governments to urgently find alternatives to these measures, which restrict the carry-on of large electronic items on certain flights departing the Middle East and North Africa.

Passengers will not be allowed to stow any electronic device larger than 16cm x 9.3cm in their hand luggage.

Some travellers have lambasted the ban as meaning they cannot carry laptops while traveling as they dare not place them in the hold, for fear they will get stolen.

"The current measures are not an acceptable long-term solution to whatever threat they are trying to mitigate. Even in the short term it is difficult to understand their effectiveness. And the commercial distortions they create are severe. We call on governments to work with the industry to find a way to keep flying secure without separating passengers from their personal electronics," says Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s DG and CEO.

De Juniac made this demand in a speech to the Montreal Council on Foreign Relations , in which he highlighted the need to maintain public confidence in the security of the global aviation industry which safely and security operates an average 100 000 flights a day.

Valid questions

"With the measures now in place, our passengers and member airlines are asking valid questions. Why don’t the US and the UK have a common list of airports? How can laptops be secure in the cabin on some flights and not others, including flights departing from the same airport? And surely there must be a way to screen electronic equipment effectively? The current situation is not acceptable and will not maintain the all-important confidence of the industry or of travellers. We must find a better way. And governments must act quickly," says de Juniac.

The ban, effective March 25, affects South Africans travelling to the US via Dubai and Abu Dhabi (UAE), Cairo (Egypt), Istanbul (Turkey), Doha (Qatar), Amman (Jordan), Kuwait City (Kuwait), Casablanca (Morocco), Jeddah and Riyadh (Saudi Arabia).

It also travellers with a direct flight to the UK from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Turkey.

The US and UK implemented the ban amid fears that terror groups have developed the capability to hide a bomb in a laptop big enough to blow a hole in the side of a plane.