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New Airlines Security Rules

TSA Statements   Other Information   Airline Imposed Restrictions Travel from Specific Destinations  Increased Use of  Explosive Trace Detection Technology  Traveling with Batteries.

Updated January 2, 2011

On December 24, 2010 the TSA indicated that it may observe additional security measures related to insulated beverage containers carried by passengers on commercial flights.  Full details on this issue are described here,

Other changes in air travel regulations were prompted by a terrorist attempted to detonate an explosive device onboard a Delta flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day, 2009.  It appears clear that the terrorist, who described himself as working at the direction of Al Qaeda, attempted to ignite an incendiary device located in his underpants.  Although sounding humorous, if the the device had worked it could have  created a fire that involved the plane’s fuel system, resulting in a conflagration and explosion capable of bringing down the aircraft.  As a consequence of this action, several new rules were imposed on air travelers.  We provide the details announced by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Information gathered from other sources, New Restrictions Imposed by Airlines and Travel Restrictions specific to travel to the United States from Schiphol Airport (AMS), Heathrow Airport (LHR) and all airports in Canada.

Recent TSA Statements

On April 2, 2010, the TSA announced a new strategy to guide air travel safety.  There were no specifics available about the program other than it would increase air travel safety by using advanced intelligence sources to avoid problems like the one that occurred with the "underpants" bomber.  We explore the details of the announcement in our blog .

On January 3, 2010 the TSA announced that it had issued new security directives to all United States and International air carriers with inbound flights to the United States, effective January 4, 2010.

The TSA statement continued "The new directive includes long-term, sustainable security measures developed in consultation with law enforcement officials and our domestic and international partners.

Because effective aviation security must begin beyond our borders, and as a result of extraordinary cooperation from our global aviation partners, TSA is mandating that every individual flying into the U.S. from anywhere in the world traveling from or through nations that are state sponsors of terrorism or other countries of interest will be required to go through enhanced screening. The directive also increases the use of enhanced screening technologies and mandates threat-based and random screening for passengers on U.S. bound international flights."

Although the TSA announcement did not specify particular actions, we understand that passengers flying to the United States whose travel originated in Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Yemen, Afghanistan, Libya, Saudi Arabia,  Algeria, Lebanon, Iraq and Cuba will require pat-down body searches and have carry-on baggage hand-searched.

On December 27, 2009, TSA released this information

Q: What additional security measures is TSA taking domestically?
A: TSA has a layered approach to security that allows us to surge resources as needed on a daily basis. We have the ability to quickly implement additional screening measures including explosive detection canine teams, law enforcement officers, gate screening, behavior detection and other measures both seen and unseen. Passengers should not expect to see the same thing at every airport.

Q: What additional security measures are being taken for international flights to U.S. destinations?
A: TSA issued a directive for additional security measures to be implemented for last point of departure international flights to the United States. Passengers flying into the United States from abroad can expect to see additional security measures at international airports such as increased gate screening including pat-downs and bag searches. During flight, passengers will be asked to follow flight crew instructions, such as stowing personal items, turning off electronic equipment and remaining seated during certain portions of the flight.

Q: Do passengers need to do anything differently to prepare for checkpoint security procedures? Has anything changed in terms of what passengers can bring in their carry-on or checked bags?
A: At this time, security checkpoint requirements for passengers departing U.S. airports remain the same. Passengers do not need to do anything differently, but they may notice additional security measures at the airport.

Q: Should passengers plan to arrive at airports earlier than normal?
A: Passengers traveling within the United States should give themselves extra time to check in and proceed through the security checkpoint before their flight, especially during the busy holiday travel season. TSA advises that passengers traveling on international flights to U.S. destinations allow extra time for security and arrive an additional hour earlier.

Q. How long will these measures remain in place?
A: TSA will continuously review these measures to ensure the highest levels of security.

Be sure to check with your airline on updates to these restrictions before flying.

Other Information

The security teams at several international airports have been conducting increased security checks, including more frequent use of “pat-downs” to check for concealed devices that may be inert until mixed with other elements. In addition, many airlines are once again restricting carry-ons to one bag, which may not be accessed during the final hour of flight, if the flight is landing in the United States. In addition, some airlines are requesting that personal items not be placed on the lap during the final hour of the flight. It appears that other airlines are restricting the use of blankets as covers during the final hour of flight, due to the terrorist covering himself with a blanket before he attempted to ignite the device he was carrying.  In addition, some airlines appear to be restricting passengers to their seats during the final 60 minutes of flights before landing.  In cases of short flights, this may lead to being seated for the duration of the flight.  On December 28, 2009, several airlines ended the restriction on in-flight movements of passengers, although the TSA had not announced any changes in procedures.

We will report more details on the potential for increased airline security when it happens. For now, it seems prudent to arrive at the airport early if you will be boarding an international flight for the United States or domestic and international flights originating in the United States.

As always, we recommend prudence when flying or when traveling away from home. While we cannot speak for others, in our opinion, the world outside our home is too important to ignore and too beautiful to disregard. We will continue to travel, as we believe that knowing more about other cultures is the best road to understanding and, eventually, peace.

If you need information on carry-ons and the types of liquids you can currently carry onboard airline cabins, see this article

Be sure to check with your airline on updates to these restrictions before flying.

Airline Imposed Restrictions

Finally, please note that several airlines are now limiting carryon luggage for flights to the United States from Europe and Canada.  The limitation now being applied is one carry-on item and replaces the former allowance of one bag and one personal item.  Many of these airlines are waving this restriction for their premium passengers and elite members of their mileage programs.  Check with your air carrier to be sure of their policy.

In addition, several airlines are now requesting that you arrive at the airport three hours early for flights from Europe and Canada to the United States. Be sure to check with your airline on updates to these restrictions before flying.

Travel Rules for Specific Origination Points

From Amsterdam to the United States

Passengers departing Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport (AMS) directly to the United States are limited to one carry-on bag, which may not exceed 45 linear inches (114.3 linear centimeters).  Medical assistance devices will be allowed in addition to the single carry-on item.

Be sure to check with your airline on updates to these restrictions before flying.

From Canada to the United States

Travel from any destination in Canada to the United States also are allowed only one carry-on bag.  The bag must not exceed the dimensions of 9 x 16 x 22 inches (or 23 x 40 x 55 centimeters). 

The following items, according to the Transport Canada website, do not count towards the one carry-on bag limit:

  • One of the following will be permitted in addition to the carry-on bag: a purse or laptop* or camera bag**.
  • A cane, walker, crutches or other life-sustaining items may be carried in addition to the carry-on bag.
    Medical equipment (oxygen tank, doctor’s bag) may be carried in addition to the carry-on bag.
    Diaper bags and other essential items for those carrying infants may be carried in addition to the carry-on bag.
  • A musical instrument may be carried in addition to the carry-on bag.
  • Pets may be carried in addition to the carry-on bag.
  • All duty free items purchased after the security check may also be carried onto the aircraft.
    Diplomatic or consular bags

*Regular carrying cases for laptop computers means small bags designed only to hold a laptop computer and its accessories. Laptop cases that have extra compartments (e.g., expandable cases, cases with wheels and a collapsible handle, backpack-type cases) are allowed, but count as the person’s one carry-on bag.

**Cameras and accessories in purpose-designed carrying cases (applies to both still and video cameras, including large, professional-grade cameras and equipment)

The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority provides a FAQ on these limitations at their website.  Note that while you can still carry a laptop computer on-board, it must be transported in a "basic" laptop bag containing only computer accessories and one or two thin file folders, with no other items.

Be sure to check with your airline on updates to these restrictions before flying.

Travel from London to the United States

Travelers flying to the United States from London Heathrow (LHR) are limited to one carry-on bag, which may not exceed 45 linear inches in length plus width and height (114.3 linear centimeters).  Medical assistance devices will be allowed in addition to the single carry-on item.

Be sure to check with your airline on updates to these restrictions before flying.

Increased Frequency of Explosive Trace Detection Technology

In February of 2009 the TSA indicated that it would increase the random testing of passengers' hands for explosive residues.  For a complete examination of this topic, see our article on Explosive Trace Detection.

Traveling with Batteries

In 2008 the U.S. Department of Transportation issued a new set of guidelines for air travelers carrying battery-powered devices and spare batteries to power them. The main concern is lithium batteries and we present the new rules and a visual guide to understanding the restrictions on carrying lithium batteries in checked and carry-on luggage here.

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