Remember back in June how the U.S. Department of Homeland Security abandoned its plan to ban laptops from aircraft cabins and instead agreed to settle for more thorough passenger screening? DHS gave foreign governments and airlines 120 days to implement stricter procedures, and that time is now up (thankfully after the peak summer season is over).
So starting this week, travelers bound for the U.S. from foreign countries can expect to see ramped-up security checks at the airport – changes that could mean longer lines, delayed departures and the need to get to the airport earlier than before.
Based on various reports that checked with a number of airlines, it looks like the tougher methods will generally involve personal interviews at check-in or filling out a new form prior to boarding.
The Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reports that Cathay Pacific will no longer allow U.S.-bound passengers to check in their luggage at downtown locations in Hong Kong and Kowloon; instead, they must do so at the airport. And it said that all airlines with flights from Hong Kong to the U.S. are telling passengers to get to the airport three hours before their scheduled departure to go through new security measures. The newspaper also said Singapore Airlines is warning travelers to expect a new security interview and possible inspection of their electronic devices.
In addition to Cathay Pacific, the Associated Press reports that Lufthansa, Air France, Emirates and Egypt Air all said they will implement security interviews of passengers on flights to the U.S., or require them to fill out new forms before departure. Emirates said that even transit and connecting passengers passing through Dubai’s airport would face new screening interviews at their boarding gates. And Egyptair told AP that passengers will also face more thorough searches of themselves and their carry-ons during security screening.
Every day, the tougher rules will affect about 325,000 travelers coming to the U.S. on 2,000 flights from 105 countries, according to Reuters . It quoted Alexandre de Juniac, head of the International Air Transport Association, as saying that the U.S. decision to impose “unilateral measures…without any prior consultation” was something IATA found to be “very concerning and disturbing.”
In the U.S., meanwhile, TSA in recent weeks has expanded to many more airports the new carry-on bag screening procedures that it announced a while back. “The new procedures require travelers to place all electronics larger than a cell phone in bins for X-ray screening when going through the security checkpoint,” TSA said. “The electronics should be placed in a bin with nothing on top or below, similar to how laptops have been screened for several years.” Thankfully the rules don’t apply to those passengers in PreCheck lines…yet.
In an unrelated development, TSA this week added five more airlines as participants in its PreCheck program, allowing passengers on those carriers to use the expedited PreCheck screening lanes. They include Cathay Pacific, Korean Air, All Nippon Airways, Finnair, and Contour Aviation, a Tennessee-based charter company. Here’s an updated list of all participating carriers.