Homeland Security officials announced today that they are talking to airlines and helping them prepare for an expansion of the current electronics ban.
The new warning suggests that Western Europe and other regions around the world will become subject to a policy that is currently only effect on a handful of carriers operating from a handful of North African and Mideast airports.
The ban will prevent passengers from bringing electronic devices larger than a smart phone aboard their USA-bound flights. DHS officials in their comments declined to say which regions are being targeted for the expanded ban, but did not rule out Western Europe as one of their primary focuses.
The DHS claims that it is acting on real and reliable intelligence that has led them to consider casting a wider net for the policy. No timetable has been announced for the implementation of expanded ban, but with DHS meeting with airlines to discuss the policy, the timing might be sooner than later.
Related: Electronics ban may be expanded
The United Kingdom has following in the wake of the TSA and has announced that they too will ban certain electronic devices from being brought aboard certain flights operating to the UK from the Mid East.
The UK lists differs from the US version in that it includes airlines other than those based in the Mid East, and also covers countries that are not on the TSA’s list.
Specifically, the airlines impacted by the UK ban include:
Atlas Global, British Airways, Easy Jet, Jet2, Thomas Cook, Monarch, Turkish Airlines, Middle East Airlines (MEA), Egyptair, Saudia, Royal Jordanian, and Tunis Air.
The countries affected by the UK ban include direct flights from:
Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Egypt, and Tunisia.
According to various outlets, there appears to be a bit of an Intelligence Alert by various government agencies warning that there may be terror attacks planned that would involve the use of electronics brought aboard aircraft.
The ban prohibits any electronic device large than a smart phone, including iPads, large cameras, and laptops from being brought on board, forcing passengers to pack these items in their checked luggage.
According to an article published earlier today by Bloomberg, it appears that our friends at the TSA have revised their screening policies as it relates to ‘patting down’ passengers at security check points.
Citing a 2015 study concluding that more and more weapons are making it past screening procedures, the TSA has notified its officers to be more thorough when patting down passengers. Up until now, the TSA had 5 different approaches when it came to physical contact or screening of a passenger. With the new policy, that list of 5 has been narrowed to 1, and that ‘1’ is more comprehensive than the previous 5.
A spokesman for the TSA stated that passenger will ‘notice that the new pat-down is more involved’. The TSA also said that this will apply to airline crew. The TSA randomly screens a small number of ‘known crew’ passing through ‘crew security’, but that small percentage of crew being screened will be subject to the same new scrutiny as a passengers.
According to the article, the new strategy has been quietly rolled out in smaller airports over the past 2 weeks, and is now being rolled out to airports nationwide. No mention was made if this would affect ‘Pre Check’ or similar expedited security programs.
Turn and Cough……
On a recent trip to Europe that required me to head over to Terminal 5 for my trans-atlantic flight, I was told by a security screener that not all screening equipment is created equal and that there is a bit of ‘secret’ when trying to clear security as quickly and painlessly as possible.
Terminal 5, also know as the International Terminal, is laid out in such a manner that makes it difficult to have multiple security lines based on status levels or class of travel. Due to the physical bottleneck at security screening, most of the time all passengers are herded through only 2 lines that head toward the screening equipment. There is a Business / First Class ‘Express’ lane that’s open occasionally based on the timing of some flight departures, but I’ve never seen it open and I have many departures from T-5 under my belt. Nor is there a Pre-Check lane for those of us enrolled in the program since most international airlines are not enrolled, except for Lufthansa as far as Euro carriers are concerned.
As I was saying, on my last trip to Europe I was flying out of Terminal 5 so I figured I had to endure the long security lines without much chance of being to clear the line faster than anyone else. Once I got past the point where my Passport and ID are checked, I made my way to the security scanners. I chose to go the far right of the screening area since the line was shortest. I also applied the stereotyping process used in ‘Up In The Air’ to avoid the families that seemed to be traveling for the first time ever and would have little clue how to handle security. I chose the line that had the kind of people in it that I thought would know what they’re doing. Glad I did.
When I came to the tray to put on my bags and began to reach for my shoes, the agent told me to keep my shoes and belt on. Of course I had to ask why since I hadn’t seen any new rules regarding passenger screening. The agent indicated that the scanner that I was going to go through was dialed up with stronger screening ability so that passengers can leave shoes and belts on during screen. Great…kind of a ‘Pre-Check’ lite! I still needed to take my electronics out, but thats a small price to pay in order to keep my shoes and belt on.
I asked her why the difference and she simply replied that the 2 machines at the far right of the screening area are dialed up to help increase the flow of passenger screening during peak time and are sometimes used as overflow lanes to get people through faster.
So what does all this mean?
The next time you have a T-5 departure from O’Hare, pay attention when you pass through the ID/Passport check. May your way to the 2 scanners at the far right of the screening area. There’s a chance that you’ll have a much easier time getting through screening without going through all the steps that everyone else has to endure (shoes/belts,etc).
Now keep in mind that this is just my experience and ‘Your Mileage May Vary’, but I doubt that the scanners are re-adjusted too many times. If the scanners are open, head there. If not, pay attention to the scanner lines to see if any of them are letting passengers keep their shoes on. You just might have a slightly easier time of clearing security in a Terminal where it’s normally not easy to do.
Due to the attacks in Paris and the ongoing police activity taking place in and around Belgium, France, and Luxembourg, Lufthansa has asked passengers to be prepared for additional scrutiny.
Specifically, passengers are asked to carry their passport or identity card even if travel is taking place within the ‘Schengen’ region which normally does not require any border control or identity checks. This applies to passengers traveling on any of Lufthansa Group’s airlines.
Passengers should expect spot checks for flights arriving or departing the above mentioned countries. In addition there is a higher chance of random checks for other travel within Schengen zones. It makes sense to act as though Schengen rules have been suspended and be prepared with proper documentation no matter where in Europe you may be.
According to the EU, this security enhancement will be in place through at least the middle of December with a good probability of being extended beyond that time frame.
Travelers who cannot provide proper identification are subject to being banned from entering a country or fines.
I’ll be in Europe next week and am curious to see how different things look and feel compared to my last visit a few months ago…..