Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Airlines Warn U.S.-Bound Passengers About Additional Screening: Passengers advised to arrive at least three hours before flight to allow for more security measures

The Wall Street Journal
By Robert Wall and  Susan Carey
Oct. 25, 2017 12:23 p.m. ET

Airlines are warnings U.S.-bound passengers they may be subject to interviews before boarding their flight as part of stepped up screening requirements Washington is demanding because of continued terrorism concerns.

United Continental Holdings Inc. notified customers on its website that the Department of Homeland Security now requires additional security measures for all international flights to the U.S. It said the measures may include enhanced screening with questioning of some or all travelers. Electronic devices larger than a standard smartphone also could be subject to checks, the airline said, as it advised passengers to arrive at airports at least three hours before the flight to allow for the additional screening.

Emirates Airline, the world’s biggest international carrier by traffic, is among the carriers to alert passengers that U.S. bound flights would be subject to closer checks starting Thursday. “The new directive requires passenger pre-screening interviews at the check-in counter for originating passengers and at the boarding gate for transfer and transit passengers,” the Dubai-based airline said. The airline also urged passengers to plan extra time for the measures.

DHS in June first said it would rollout tighter security checks on inbound international flights amid concerns terrorists were continuing to try to bring down commercial airliners. The security measures affect around 325,000 passengers a day at 280 foreign airports with direct flights to the U.S.

The requirements for interviews are part of a wider set of security enhancements the U.S. began rolling out in July. Airlines at the time said passengers would be subject to enhanced checks, without spelling out what measures were being taken. DHS has provided few details on its additional security demands, though it said they would include deployment of advanced technology and use of explosive detecting dogs.

The new rules extend to more behavioral vetting of passengers, steps that already were in place at some European airports but now are being intensified to all foreign airports that send planes direct to the U.S., including from locations not previously deemed risky. Flyers, who previously might be asked about whether they packed their own bag, now could also face questions about why they were traveling or whom they had met, a person familiar with the new protocol said. Planes also might be subject to security sweeps while on the ground at airports.

The Transportation Security Administration, a DHS arm, said “we are continuing to implement the department’s efforts to raise the global aviation security baseline,” without detailing specific steps. It said that as threats evolve it would work with others to improve intelligence sharing, standardized security practices, and pursue technology upgrades to make flying more secure.

Israel, credited with some of the best airline security measures, has long interviewed passengers before they board planes to help identify suspected terrorists. These checks can begin before passengers even get to the airport.

Singapore Airlines Ltd. Wednesday said the additional checks may include inspection of electronic devices and “security questioning” at check-in and boarding. Deutsche Lufthansa AG , Germany’s No. 1 airline by traffic, said “in addition to the controls of electronic devices already introduced, travelers to the U.S. might now also face short interviews at check-in, document check or gate.” It told some passengers they had to check-in earlier.

The International Air Transport Association that represents more than 200 carriers world-wide said the new measures “raise the bar on aviation security.” It said airlines and airports helped devise the security steps.

The checks are an additional hurdle for passengers in what already has been a tumultuous year for U.S. bound international travelers.

Passengers from some Middle East countries had their travel plans disrupted when the Trump administration in January implemented a travel ban on some citizens from the region. The ban was set aside by U.S. courts, but for several days caused chaos at big international hubs. The U.S. in March imposed a ban on carrying laptop and other large electronic devices inside the cabin of planes inbound from 10 airports in the Middle East and North Africa. Airlines scrambled to react to implement the measure.

The U.S. had considered widening the device ban to all U.S.-bound flights. European regulators, airlines and airports asked the U.S. government to hold off, saying such a ban could dent demand for travel. Opponents also expressed concern that storing a large number of devices electronic devices in the cargo hold poses safety risks because lithium batteries used in most laptops can catch fire.

Elaine Duke, the acting U.S. Secretary for Homeland Security, last week met her British counterpart. They agreed to work together to improve global aviation security standards. The two sides agreed to work together on measures such as detecting concealed explosives, enhancing cargo screening, and protecting flights from attacks by insiders.

Original article can be found here ➤

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