US implements new security rules for travellers
I wrote a while ago about the planned tighter security controls on flights to the US. These arrangements came into force last Thursday. The new rules were introduced after the US wanted to introduce a laptop ban on all flights to the US. They subsequently agreed with the EU to implement a different security protocol due to concerns about lithium batteries in the aircraft hold.
The US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) have also ramped up security requirements for domestic flights. Travellers must now remove all electronics larger than phones from their carry-on luggage into separate bins for X-ray machines.
The new measures will not all be visible to passengers. They include extra surveillance of aircraft and departure gate at the airport as the US is concerned about airport insiders handing explosive to passengers airside. The more obvious steps will be more explosives trace checks and passenger interviews. These type of interviews have already been in place for some time for US airlines. They do ask some odd questions, some of which can seem quite personal, so don’t be surprised. These checks will either take place at check-in, the lounge or the gate depending on whether you are checking luggage, transferring or have hand luggage only. None of the airlines seem to be applying the changes in exactly the same way with some indicating the interview may, in fact, be a form for passengers to fill in.
Have you travelled to the US since Thursday? Have you noticed any difference? Let me know in the comments below or on social media.
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I flew AA a few months back from Heathrow to Dallas with an onward domestic connection. At check in, the overly friendly staff were asking fellow passenger questions like ‘so how long have you been in London? What was your favorite sightseeing place? How much was the entry ticket? Once inside the venue, were the queues long? Was food expensive inside the venue? Gosh I’ve always wanted to go to the Tower of London/ venue in question, would you recommend it? Were there lots of foreign tourists or mostly Brit’s inside the venue? Where did you eat in London? Was it expensive? What did you order from the menu? I got similar but different questions including ‘where did I work? How long for? Why do I stay at the company? What exactly do I plan to see in the US? Do I own my house or rent? How long did I own it for? How much did I pay for it? At this point I discretely asked why, with a long queue of passengers at check in were the staff wasting so much time chatting about what the passengers had been doing/ planned to be doing. The deer in headlights look told me what I wanted to know! I asked if this was ‘enhanced security screening’ and got he reply ‘yes’. It was handled very casually by the staff, in a way that wouldn’t necessarily raise your awareness to what was actually happening to you. I asked what if I refused to answer some of these intrusive questions and was told I could not be checked in for the flight until I had been interviewed by SSSS staff from the Embassy. With check in now prolonged by at least 10 minutes per person due to questioning, it will really add time to the whole process. You will have to arrive in plenty of time to get through the enhanced check in questioning process.
Thanks Michael. It will be interesting to see how the non airlines handle this as they are not used to this type of questioning. Apparently it is not so much about the answers as the manner in which you answer them. Interesting times.
On a recent trip to LAS on BA, the Immigration officer asked questions such as what I did for a living, if I enjoyed it and what my purpose for the visit to LAS was. Seemingly standard questions. My answer to the last question made both the officer and myself laugh as I indicated that I was visiting for a thoroughly good time enjoying the bars.
You can get officers who have great difficulty in providing you with a smile – these are the most brutal to be faced by conversation with, especially after a lengthy flight; conversely you also on occasion get officers who genuinely are more willing to be more personal and friendly in their demeanour towards you which certainly helps the conversation along. I’ve encountered both types on several occasions and it is the luck of the draw.
I agree completely that it is probably more about the manner in which you approach the conversation.
My personal view is that having electronic batteries in an area (in the cabin) where a potential short circuit or over heat fire can be dealt with more readily is far better than a fire developing in the hold.
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