Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab may have failed at bombing Northwest Flight 253 on Christmas Day, but he succeeded in creating big headaches for holiday travelers. In response to the attempted bombing, the TSA has implemented new security measures for domestic and especially international flights. MSNBC has more:
While domestic passengers “should not expect to see the same thing at every airport,” TSA said heightened security procedures would include increased vigilance and visibility that may — or may not — take the form of gate screening, added presence of law enforcement officers and canine teams, and other activities.
International travelers, however, are sure to notice a difference. New security measures for international flights heading toward the U.S., TSA said, will require increased gate screening “including pat-downs and bag searches” and a variety of in-flight restrictions. “During certain portions of the flight,” passengers may be asked to put away their personal items, turn off electronic equipment, keep blankets, pillows and personal items off their laps, and stay seated, the agency said.
Virgin Atlantic Airlines is telling travelers heading to the U.S. that there will be “extra screening of passengers and hand baggage at the gate immediately before boarding.” Air Canada posted notice that, under the TSA-imposed rules, “during the final hour of flight customers must remain seated, and will not be allowed to access carry-on baggage, or have personal belongings or other items on their laps.” And Canada’s WestJet notified passengers that these and other new procedures, such as the limit of one carry-one bag per passengers, are scheduled to be in effect until at least December 30.
In a memo sent to airlines (but not posted on the TSA Web site), airlines flying to the U.S. are instructed to turn off any in-flight entertainment systems with embedded maps or GPS programs showing the plane’s exact location. Pilots and crew members are also told not to make announcements identifying landmarks below.
Changes in carry-on luggage rules are also causing confusion. Until Saturday, most airlines allowed passengers to board with a standard-sized carry-on bag, plus one additional bag usually described as a laptop-bag, purse or briefcase. Those rules still stand for domestic flights and flights leaving the United States. On incoming flights, however, passengers can board with just one small carry-on item.
In other words, the new rules are forcing travelers to be even more patient than usual. Schedule in some extra time if you’re flying anywhere in coming weeks.