US officials' push for a wider electronics ban follows concerns over the possible direct detonation of a large device in an aircraft passenger cabin, says United Airlines chief executive Oscar Munoz.
These concerns do not apply to a laptop or large electronic device stored in the cargo hold of an aircraft, he says on a panel at the IATA annual general meeting in Cancun.
"Having had a lot of internal briefings with the Department of Homeland Security about this particular threat and its viability with regards to an explosive device that has been tested in a cabin to catastrophic results, is something we have to believe the government has seen," says Munoz.
The US implemented a ban on large electronics in the passenger cabin of flights from 10 cities in Africa and the Middle East in March, a move that was matched by the UK from a fewer number of cities days later.
EU and US officials continue to discuss the possibility of expanding the ban to include flights across the North Atlantic. Such a move would impact one of the largest international markets in the world and create new challenges around how to safely transport a large number of electronics in aircraft cargo holds.
Other airline executives raised concerns about the safety of a large number of electronics, each with its own lithium ion batteries and their known fire risks, in an aircraft cargo hold.
"Safety always has to come first," says Rickard Gustafson, president and chief executive of SAS Group, at IATA.
However, he also acknowledges that the security threat is "probably correct", adding that safety and security must be balanced.
"We're going to comply," says Munoz if a large electronics ban between the EU and USA is enacted. The airline is working on a plan to "service our customers" in such an event, he adds.
Executives at American Airlines and Delta Air Lines have plans in place if a ban is implemented. Ed Bastian, chief executive of Delta, said on 31 May that the carrier has a "game plan" that would allow passengers to remain "productive" in-flight with a ban.
Bastian did not elaborate on their plan.
Neither American nor Delta expect a significant impact on transatlantic demand in the event of an electronics ban.
"Companies still have to [take the trip] over time," said Derek Kerr, president of American, in May. "People will adjust as you move forward. We, as a company, need to figure out how to handle it."
FlightGlobal is organising the Flight Safety Symposium, which takes place in London on 26-27 September 2017. Click here for details