Travellers should prepare for stricter screening procedures at airports in the USA as evaluated intelligence indicates that terrorist groups are continuing to target commercial aviation by aggressively pursuing innovative methods to undertake their attacks, including smuggling explosive devices in various consumer items.
According to Euan McNeil, FCM GM for South Africa, while the exact extent of the stricter screening procedures has yet to be finalised, travellers should brace themselves for heightened security measures when travelling to the USA.
“In recent months, we’ve seen a fair amount of changes in aviation security in the USA. From travel bans for certain nationalities to the ban of electronics onboard aircraft from certain destinations, and more recently, the possibility of banning electronic devices from all international flights into and out of the US. In addition, there is a real possibility that travellers will in future have to unpack carry-on bags for TSA inspections.”
The TSA is currently testing tighter screening of carry-on bags at 10 airports in the USA, with the possibility of expanding the new procedures to other airports around the country.
Travellers travelling to these airports will be asked to place electronics larger than a cellphone in a bin separately for X-ray screening. TSA officers may also advise travellers to place other carry-on items separately in a bin.
“Supposedly, one of the main concerns is that baggage check fees are encouraging passengers to ‘cram’ their carry-ons with as much as they can, making it difficult for the TSA to actually see what passengers are putting in their carry-on bags.
Thus, with more layers to sift through, the image officers see may not give a true reflection of what a bag may contain. By taking some items out, officers can get a clearer picture of each item individually,” says McNeil.
Greeley Koch, executive director of the Association of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE), adds that while everyone supports greater security in the face of the complex, persistent threat of terrorism, actions taken by governments to protect the safety of their citizens shouldn’t create more questions than answers.
According to Koch, many questions remain about the initial electronic devices ban.
“Why did the US and the UK target different countries for the initial ban, and why didn’t other countries follow suit? Why are laptops the target of such a ban despite the United States’ investment in airport security and screening procedures? If the ban is implemented more broadly, will other countries institute their own policies that can further complicate the travel picture? How do these bans increase security when they are easily circumvented, even if all of Europe is subject to them?”
Koch adds that an extended ban disrupts business travellers’ ability to travel and remain productive -adding it to the list of disastrous, cumbersome airline security policies seen over the years, from restrictions on liquids to removing shoes at security checkpoints.
“Business travellers want and need to be productive, and few will be willing to check their laptops. Businesses will also have to invest in alternative solutions to help their employees access laptops and other devices at their destinations,” says Koch.
FCM suggests travellers make use of these key tips to navigate airport security and screening with greater ease:
- Visit the TSA website’s What Can I Bring? section, where you can type in an item and find out whether you can pack something in your carry-on, your checked bags, either or neither – you can even send them a picture of the item through Twitter or Facebook Messenger
- Have the required travel documents in your hand when you get to the line
- Dressing for the occasion: Leave off any scarves, hair accessories, bulky jewellery or anything else that you’d have to take off while people are waiting. That goes for whatever’s in your pockets too. Don’t stand in line fumbling to move stuff from your pockets into the trays (and vice versa after the screening)
- Remember the 3-1-1 Liquids Rule: Travellers are allowed to bring a quart-sized bag of liquids, aerosols, gels, creams and pastes through the checkpoint. These are limited to 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) or less per item. Don’t buy bottled water before you go through security – it will be confiscated
- Arrive two hours before domestic flights and three hours before international flights
- Avoid over packing your carry-on bag and consider checking bags when feasible.