Airlines and security officials warned about tighter screening that went into effect Wednesday for hundreds of thousands of travelers who fly daily to the USA from hundreds of airports.
“Enhanced screening measures are in effect,” the Canadian Air Transport Security Association said in a warning to travelers. If selected for random additional screening, travelers will have to remove electronics from protective cases and turn them on. The association urged travelers to make sure devices are charged before traveling.
Aeromexico warned its passengers to get to the airport three hours before direct flights to the USA for extra screening. The airline said the extra scrutiny is intended to confirm that the object is an electronic device and not a prohibited object. Electronics must be out of their cases and will be reviewed in the presence of the traveler, the airline said.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced the measures June 28 to better detect explosives hidden in electronics and to thwart airport workers from smuggling bombs onto planes. John Kelly, the secretary of Homeland Security, called the measures a new baseline for worldwide aviation security.
The measures apply to 180 airlines flying to the USA from 280 airports in 105 countries. About 325,000 people fly to the USA on 2,000 flights daily. If airlines don’t meet the standards, they could face a laptop ban for carry-on and checked bags on flights to the USA. No airlines in the world are under restrictions for electronics because they've all adopted additional security measures, the department said Thursday.
“The quick and decisive action taken by airlines, nations and stakeholders are a testament to our shared commitment to raising the bar on global aviation security," said David Lapan, a department spokesman. "As we continue to secure global aviation in the coming weeks and months, this communication and partnership between the private sector and the U.S. government will be imperative."
The department didn’t detail the extra steps, other than to say travelers might see more 3-D scanners, more swabbing for traces of explosives and more bomb-sniffing dogs at checkpoints.
The measures came after a ban in March on electronics larger than cellphones in carry-on bags aboard nine airlines flying to the USA from 10 airports in the Middle East and Africa.
Those airlines were each removed from the ban this month. Extra security was visible for Qatar Airways in Doha, where laptops and their electric cords were swabbed for traces of explosives and sealed in duty-free bags until passengers were aboard their flight.
The greater scrutiny for electronics in carry-on bags began two days after the Federal Aviation Administration issued information warning airlines about personal electronics in checked luggage.
The FAA alert Monday said security measures could encourage more passengers to pack electronics in checked luggage, but that remains a concern because of rare fires sparked by lithium-ion batteries in the electronics.
The FAA Tech Center tested electronics by placing heaters next to electronics in soft-sided bags and found that batteries could spark fires with hazardous materials in the luggage. Crew members and passengers would notice a fire in the cabin, but a fire in cargo might "create conditions beyond what the airplane was designed to manage."
The FAA said that generally, electronics such as laptops and cellphones "should be transported in carry-on baggage and not placed in checked baggage." If packed in checked bags, electronics should be turned off and packed to protect them from damage, the FAA said.