Travelers are likely to see new airport security measures in the wake of a foiled Christmas Day terror plot.
“Passengers flying from international locations to U.S. destinations may notice additional security measures in place,” Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said in a statement. “These measures are designed to be unpredictable, so passengers should not expect to see the same thing everywhere. Due to the busy holiday travel season, both domestic and international travelers should allot extra time for check-in.”
Published reports indicate that immediately following the failed attack, the security measures included additional passenger pat-downs and a prohibition on passengers leaving their seats during the final hour of international flights.
While those measures seemed to have eased, the TSA said in a statement that “passengers may 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.”
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a 23-year-old Nigerian national, faces federal charges of attempting to destroy Northwest Airlines flight 253 from Amsterdam as it prepared to land at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport. Authorities say Abdulmutallab tried to ignite an explosive device that contained pentaerythritol, also known as PETN.
“This alleged attack on a U.S. airplane on Christmas Day shows that we must remain vigilant in the fight against terrorism at all times,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement. “Had this alleged plot to destroy an airplane been successful, scores of innocent people would have been killed or injured. We will continue to investigate this matter vigorously, and we will use all measures available to our government to ensure that anyone responsible for this attempted attack is brought to justice.”
In the wake of other terror plots, authorities have implemented a number of security measures. For example, following Sept. 11, 2001, only ticketed passengers could pass through airport security. And following 2006’s “Liquid Bomb” plot, passengers could only carry liquids in 3 ounce bottles on board.
The following Q&A is from the TSA:
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 may 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.