NPR: “Passengers Flying to U.S. Face Heightened Screenings, New Questions”

by Joseph McKeown

The Trump administration is imposing heightened security measures for both US citizens and foreign passengers traveling to the US as of October 26, 2017. These measures will affect approximately 325,000 passengers on more than 2,000 flights every day, according to NPR. The new regulations come after government officials lifted the ban on certain electronic devices this past July, and gave airlines a three-month timeframe to improve security. "The security measures affect all individuals, international passengers and US citizens, traveling to the United States from a last point of departure international location," Lisa Farbstein, a spokeswoman for the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) says.

The stricter screening policies are much broader than any prior travel regulations put in place by the Trump administration. Implementation of the new rules have caused confusion. David Schaper of NPR says: “Airlines have some flexibility for implementing the new procedures. For example, some will conduct brief security interviews with passengers at check-in counters; others may do so at the gate, while still others will just have travelers fill out a questionnaire.” Passengers can potentially expect a closer scrutiny of their luggage and electronic devices, security sweeps of airplanes, and bomb-sniffing dogs. As a result, airlines are now suggesting that travelers arrive at the airport at least three hours before their international flight departs to the US.

Dubai-based airline Emirates, one of the first airlines to comment, says that they would begin “pre-screening interviews” at check-in counters for passengers flying out of Dubai and at boarding gates for those transferring flights. Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific Airways state on their website that self-drop baggage and curbside check-in services have been suspended for those traveling to the US. These passengers will now be subject to a “short security interview” when checking their luggage. Those without bags will face the same interview at their boarding gate. Passengers flying with Singapore Airlines may be required to have their personal electronic devices searched as well as undergo security questioning during both check-in and boarding. Air France states that their extra security screening would be through the use of a questionnaire that passengers will be required to complete.

EgyptAir says that they will have stricter search of passengers and luggage and also conduct interviews. Germany’s Lufthansa Group, which includes Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines, Swiss Airlines, and others, state that passengers will not only face screenings of electronic devices, but also interviews and document checks at check-in or at their gate. After being granted a request to delay implementation, Royal Jordanian says it would be enacting new security measures in mid-January through the use of questionnaires given to passengers before check-in.

US-based carriers will also be affected by these new security regulations. Delta Air Lines recommends that passengers traveling to the US arrive at the airport at least three hours before their flight in order to get through security, but did not specify security measures. United and American Airlines declined to comment. Vaughn Jennings of the trade group Airlines for America states that the “safety and security of passengers and crew is the highest priority for US airlines and we remain committed to ensuring the highest levels of security are in place throughout the industry.” 

Not everyone is convinced that these new measures will be effective. Jeffrey Price, an aviation security expert at Metropolitan State University of Denver, tells the Associated Press. “The part of the new measures I don’t like is that airline personnel are being put back into the security screening process. Airline ticket agents aren’t always the best at conducting security measures.”