Statewatch News Online: EU-US: New row over all lighters being banned from planes

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EU-US: New row over all types of lighters being banned from planes

- EU reject US demand as "unacceptable"
- the searching of all passengers would "paralyse airport operations in Europe"
- ironically the EU can take a strong stand on this issue but not on personal data protection (PNR data)

A new "row" over airline security has broken out between the EU and the USA, this time over the:

"prohibition by the USA of all types of lighters being carried by passengers onboard aircraft"

The proposal being made by the US State Department and the Department of Homeland Security refers to Section 4025 of S.2845, the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 which requires that butane lighters be added to the list of items prohibited from being carried onboard a passenger aircraft. The EU has been informed that the the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Department of Homeland Security, will introduce from 14 April 2005 a prohibition of all types of lighters being carried both by passengers and in their hand luggage and, consequently, also in the sterile areas of airports.

The response of the EU notes that US rules effectively apply not just to US outbound flights but also to inbound ones too and therefore would effect European airports. The response questions:

"the effectiveness of such a rule. Given technology restraints to date in detecting in an efficient way lighters the only realistic means of potentially detecting such items would be to subject all passengers and their hand luggage to a hand search. However, such hand searching of all passengers and their hand luggage would paralyse airport operations in Europe and is, therefore, unacceptable and inapplicable."

The EU response observes that such a ban could encourage passengers to put lights in their hold baggage:

"This has potentially serious safety consequences and the risks may, indeed, outweigh any possible benefits from banning such objects from being carried on the passenger."

The "Demarche" agreed by the Aviation Working Party will go to COREPER (the committee of Brussels-based high-level representatives of the 25 governments) later this month.

Tony Bunyan, Statewatch editor, comments:

"The EU is right to reject this US demand, which like all such demands is intended to herald a new "global standard". The searching of all passengers for lighters would be disportionate. It is a pity the EU did not take the same strong stand to protect peoples' rights on the US demand for access to all passenger data (PNR) too".

Demarche by the Community and its Member States regarding the proposed prohibition by the United States of America of all types of lighters being carried by passengers onboard aircraft (EU doc no: 7220/05)

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