June 29, 2017 / 1:26 PM / 2 months ago

Europe's airports expect big costs from new U.S. security measures

An aircraft comes in to land at Heathrow Airport in London, Britain, February 23, 2017.Andrew Boyers

BERLIN (Reuters) - Airports, airlines and passengers are likely to bear significant costs from new security measures on flights to the United States, European airports association ACI Europe said on Thursday.

The measures, announced on Wednesday by the Department of Homeland Security and applicable to all commercial flights to the United States, include increased explosive trace detection efforts and more screening of passengers.

"It's difficult to estimate, at this point, how much the new measures will cost, but it is likely to be significant," a spokesman for ACI Europe told Reuters.

"Unless national governments assist with funding them, then the cost will ultimately fall on airports, airlines and air travellers," he said, adding there was no time to lose to implement the measures.

Airlines and airports across Europe said it was too early to give details of any operational impact or costs. Airlines such as Lufthansa and Norwegian Air Shuttle said they would work with authorities to implement the measures.

Willie Walsh, the CEO of British Airways parent IAG, said he did not expect a major increase in costs.

"The airline industry is very capable at adapting to changes in the security regulations so I think it's marginal on the overall scale of things," he said at an event in Brussels.

The airports with the most U.S.–bound flights in Europe are London Heathrow, Paris Charles de Gaulle, Frankfurt, Amsterdam Schiphol and Dublin.

A spokeswoman for Schiphol airport, where there have been long security queues this summer, said moving U.S. flights to another part of Schiphol could be an option, but it was unclear at the moment whether that would be necessary.

A German interior ministry spokeswoman said passengers flying to the United States should expect extra security checks on devices bigger than a smartphone. She declined to comment on details of the checks for security reasons.

The new measures will avoid an extension of the ban on passengers bringing large electronic devices such as laptops and tablets into cabins, which many had said would have resulted in widespread disruption at airports and led to increased fire risks from storing such devices in the hold.

"We are satisfied that, at this stage, the U.S. has... instead decided in favour of more targeted measures to address identified risks, without compromising safety," ACI Europe said.

Emirates Airline, one of those affected by the laptop ban introduced in March, said it would work to implement the new measures as soon as possible, with a view to the ban being lifted.

Reporting by Victoria Bryan, Bart Meijer in Amsterdam, Alistair Smout in London, Alexander Cornwell in Dubai, editing by David Evans and Susan Thomas

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