UK

UK Flights To The US To Be Subject To Stricter Security Checks

Expect delays.

25/10/2017 17:40 BST | Updated 26/10/2017 09:58 BST

A US government spokeswoman has said new security screening measures will apply to all flights to America from abroad from Thursday.

Lisa Farbstein, a spokeswoman for the US Transportation Security Administration, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that affects the approximately 2,100 flights arriving daily to America.

She said in a statement that the new security measures “may include” enhancing passenger screening, heightened screening of electronics and increasing security measures.

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The changes come into effect on Thursday. 

She says both US citizens and foreigners will face the same security.

The agency’s comments come as six global long-haul carriers said they will start asking passengers security questions before they board flights at the request of US officials.

The stricter passenger screening is designed to avoid an in-cabin ban on laptops, airlines said.

Airlines contacted by Reuters said the new measures could include short security interviews with passengers at check-in or the boarding gate, sparking concerns over flight delays and extended processing time.

They will affect 325,000 airline passengers on about 2,000 commercial flights arriving daily in the United States, on 180 airlines from 280 airports in 105 countries.

The United States announced the new rules in June to end its restrictions on carry-on electronic devices on planes coming from 10 airports in eight countries in the Middle East and North Africa in response to unspecified security threats.

Those restrictions were lifted in July, but the Trump administration said it could reimpose measures on a case by case basis if airlines and airports did not boost security.

European and US officials said at the time that airlines had 120 days to comply with the measures, including increased passenger screening. The 120-day deadline is Thursday. Airlines had until late July to expand explosive trace detection testing.

“We see this as a big issue for China Airlines,” Steve Chang, senior vice president of the Taiwanese firm told reporters on Wednesday, adding the airline was trying to consult with the American Institute in the country over the issue.

Korean Airlines, South Korea’s flagship carrier, also said it had a lot of concerns with the new measures.

“We are asking customers to show up at the airport early ... It’s just inconvenient for the passengers,” President and Chief Operating Officer Walter Cho told Reuters in Taipei.

Lufthansa Group said on Tuesday the measures would be in place by Thursday and travelers could face short interviews at check-in or at the gate.

Economy passengers on Lufthansa’s Swiss airline have been asked to check in at least 90 minutes before departure.

Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd said it would suspend in-town check-in and self bag-drop services for passengers booked on direct flights to the United States. The airline said passengers would also have short security interviews and it has advised travelers to arrive three hours before departure.

Singapore Airlines Ltd said the security checks could include inspections of personal electronic devices as well as security questioning during check-in and boarding.

Airlines for America, a US trade group, said the changes “are complex security measures” but praised US officials for giving airlines flexibility in meeting the new rules.

Alexandre de Juniac, CEO of the International Air Transport Association, said the industry understoood security threats to aviation were made regularly but in this case the US government had not shared any specific dangers before changing the rules.

“What we have seen is very strange,” he told reporters in Taipei. “Unilateral measures announced without any prior consultation... That is something that is very concerning and disturbing.”

At their annual meeting in Taipei, Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) members passed a resolution calling for security measures to be risk-based, outcome-focused and proportionate to the probable threat.

“Unilateral actions taken by individual goverments reacting to emerging threats may result in unneccessary disruption or lead to unintended safety consequences,” said the members.

AAPA includes most large Asian airlines but not mainland Chinese carriers.

“The risk is other countries make similar demands,” AAPA Director General Andrew Herdman said.

US authorities in June also increased security around aircraft and in passenger areas, and other places where travellers can be cleared by US officials before they depart.

A Transportation Security Administration (TSA) spokeswoman declined to discuss the specific changes but said “the United States continues to work with our partners to raise the baseline of global aviation security and keep the entire traveling public safe.”

The TSA said in July it was imposing new security rules requiring US domestic airline travellers to remove all electronic items larger than mobile phones such as tablets, e-readers and video game consoles from carry-on baggage for screening.