The thwarted Christmas Day terrorist attack aboard a US-bound flight triggered heightened security measures that severely restrict airline passenger mobility, resulting in flight delays and setting off a heated debate over airport security.
On one Air Canada flight from Toronto to New York Monday, passengers were reportedly told to remain seated for the entirety of the flight and were not allowed to use electronics. Passengers were also not allowed to access their personal belongings on the flight because of ‘enhanced security procedures', ” according to the Associated Press.
Some of the new measures – which include increased passenger searches, limits to carry-on baggage, restrictions to on-board movement, and limiting on-board restroom access – may be temporary. But Friday’s incident aboard a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit appear likely to bring about some permanent changes in an effort to keep pace with the evolving threat of terrorism.
“We're looking at what happened here. We're looking to make sure that this sort of incident cannot recur, even as we change procedures and install new technology moving forward,” Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano told CBS News on Monday.
On Sunday the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) reported on its website that passengers flying into the US could expect pat-downs and bag searches. The TSA also said that measures would vary from airport to airport and that the agency has “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.”
TSA officials would not detail the new security measures, but many passengers have talked about the increased restrictions.
Some of the steps taken directly following Friday's attack, in which Umar Farouk Adbulmutallab allegedly tried to blow up an inbound flight to Detroit, have been dialed back. Airline officials told the AP that restrictions on keeping blankets and personal items in the last hour of the flight had been eased.
At airports, long lines and delays
The heightened airport security meant longer lines, delays, and some canceled flights at both domestic and international terminals on Monday.
The increased steps seem to be taking more of a toll on international carriers. Many travelers report that it's taking at least an hour longer to go through security and others say police are more visible and baggage restrictions tighter.
“Passengers flying from international locations to US destinations may notice additional security measures in place. These measures are designed to be unpredictable, so passengers should not expect to see the same thing everywhere," said Ms. Napolitano in a statement over the weekend.
“As a result of the new security measures imposed by Canadian and US government authorities, flights from Canada to the United States continue to experience significant delays and cancellations,” Air Canada said Sunday on its website.
Many travelers have been detailing their airport experiences on Twitter, the microblogging site.
For others, however, tighter security went unnoticed. "They say airport security is tighter now? Just went through without additional screening on my camera gear for the first time in months. Ha," wrote FatTonyBMX.
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