Guest Author - Julia Reed Zaic
Increased Security Measures Reported as of December 27, 2009
After a lone passenger aboard Northwest/Delta flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit attempted to detonate an explosive device just prior to landing, and after an inflight disruption on the same flight forty-eight hours later, airlines and airports have increased security measures. Travelers should be aware that at this time, not all security measures will be posted or pre-announced as media sources are reporting that such measures are intended to be unpredictable.
Most importantly, travelers should arrive early for their flights. Although TSA has not recommended a specific number of hours to arrive in preparation for check-in and security procedures, as of December 27, 2009 some international flights are reporting delays of at least an hour due to newly implemented security measures.
Unpredictable Security Measures: Pat Downs, Wanding, Etc.
U.S. government officials and agencies have not issued any formal, newly established security guidelines, and the New York Times reports that this is intentional. The aim seems to be the avoidance of any predictability of screening procedures of baggage or person, and measures may vary from airport to airport.
Travelers returning from abroad over the Christmas holiday weekend state they were subjected to secondary screening in the form of “pat downs” or “wanding”. Also, inflight procedures for flights descending into the United States from abroad are being reported as different, with passengers required to remain seated for the last hour of the flight. This is reminiscent of domestic flights in the Washington D.C. area for many months after September 11th, 2001. Passengers also reported to news agencies that lavatories could be used during that final hour, but only with a crew escort.
Passengers also reported to the New York Times and other news agencies that they were required to stow all blankets and pillows and prohibited from having any personal items on their laps an hour before landing.
New Limitations for Carry-On Baggage
Airport security measures are limiting carry-on baggage to one item. This will likely change the “one carry on bag, and one personal item” rule of late where travelers could take one piece of luggage in addition to their purse or laptop cases.
The current 3-1-1 rule for carrying liquids onboard has not been reported as altered or eliminated. This rule 3-1-1 for carry-ons = 3.4 ounce (100ml) bottle or less (by volume); 1 quart-sized, clear, plastic, zip-top bag; 1 bag per passenger placed in screening bin. One-quart bag per person limits the total liquid volume each traveler can bring.
Airline Specific Directives
JetBlue Airlines is reporting on their website that satellite televisions services will not be accessible on any international flights headed for the United States. Other major airlines have not reported such restrictions. However, it is probably safe to say that travelers should prepare for complete inactivity during the last hour of flight on most airlines due to the reported requirement to stow all personal items.
No other major airlines seem to be reporting restricted usage of inflight entertainment sources and only report that international flights to the United States will be subject to longer lines and to plan accordingly, including arriving early to the gate for boarding.
If your plans include international travel connections or arrivals in the United States, it would behoove you to check your airline’s website for additional information and guidance. For all international flights via the United States please plan at least an additional hour at the airport.
Finally, please remain vigilant and aware of your surroundings.