North America

Security to get tougher – but laptops, iPads can stay in cabin

TSA Security Check
Transportation Security Administration

Travelers from around the world seeking to fly to the United States will soon face a new series of security hurdles before they’ll be allowed to enter the country.

And if the airline they are flying is either unable or unwilling to comply with the new security measures being imposed by the Department of Homeland Security, the airline could lose its landing rights in the United States.

“I am concerned that we are seeing renewed interest on the part of terrorist groups to go after the aviation sector—from bombing aircraft to attacking airports on the ground, as we saw in Brussels and Istanbul,” said John F. Kelley, the Secretary of Homeland Security.

“However, we are not standing on the sidelines while fanatics hatch new plots. The U.S. government is focused on deterring, detecting, and disrupting these threats,” he said.

“We cannot play international whack-a-mole with each new threat. Instead, we must put in place new measures across the board to keep the traveling public safe and make it harder for terrorists to succeed,” he said.

“I am announcing a first step toward this goal by requiring new security measures to be applied to all commercial flights coming into the United States. These measures will be both seen and unseen, and they will be phased in over time”

The measures include:

  • Enhancing overall passenger screening;
  • Conducting heightened screening of personal electronic devices;
  • Increasing security protocols around aircraft and in passenger areas; and
  • Deploying advanced technology, expanding canine screening, and establishing additional pre-clearance locations.

Kelley said these measures could affect all commercial flights departing from 280 airports that serve as last points of departure to the United States.

According to Homeland Security officials, the new restrictions affect 105 countries and a total of 180 airlines. On average, that’s 2,000 flights a day with 325,000 daily passengers.

Homeland Security did, however, did abandon its plan to prohibit passengers from bringing laptops and tablets onto planes in their carry-on bags,

Currently, passengers traveling from airports in a total of eight Muslim-majority countries are prohibited from carrying laptop computers, iPads and other devices larger than a cell phone aboard direct flights the United States. Gulf airlines have been the most affected by the current restrictions.

The department said the restriction on electronic devices on flights from those eight countries might be lifted when and if those airports and airlines adopt the new security measures.

The department warned that airlines or foreign airports “who fail to implement these requirements and the follow-on measures within certain timeframes run the risk of additional security restrictions. Ultimately, failure to follow security directives can jeopardize an airline or airport’s ability to operate flights into the United States.”

According to the Los Angeles Times, the United Arab Emirates ambassador in Washington, Yousef Al Otaiba, vowed to “strongly support and cooperate fully” with the Homeland Security rules, which he called “good news” for travelers on flights originating in or transiting the giant airport in Dubai.

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