Security tight for flights into U.S. after foiled attack
December 30, 2009
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Airports and airlines in Europe have taken steps — in some cases, drastic measures — to beef up security following last week’s thwarted bombing attempt of a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam, Netherlands, to Detroit.
Travelers heading to the U.S. are now asked to check in even earlier before their flights, and can expect to have every piece of carry-on luggage searched.
“We have a 100 percent [carry-on] baggage check [policy],” said Frankfurt International Airport spokeswoman Alisa Cevir.
Officials at London’s Heathrow Airport and Venice’s Marco Polo International Airport also confirmed that all carry-on baggage is being searched.
Most passengers, traveling for the holidays, took things in stride.
“It’s Christmas as well, so you’d expect some delays,” Mary Lecarpentier, 45, who was flying from London to New York for New Year’s celebrations, told The Associated Press. “I’ve only just joined this line and it’s fine. I’m nearly there.”
Passengers at some European airports were being subjected to multiple security checks. Munich Airport in Bavaria, for example, has installed a second security checkpoint for travelers headed to the U.S.
“It allows us to intensify passenger as well as luggage control,” said Martin Schelter, a spokesman for the Upper Bavarian government.
And while Schelter said the increased security has not resulted in delays in Munich, officials at Heathrow are reporting 45-minute delays on flights to the U.S. from London.
“We are advising passengers to check in early for U.S. flights,” a BAA airport company spokeswoman at Heathrow said. “They should check with their airline. We are assisting [with security], and the procedures we have in place are robust.”
As a result of all of the heightened security, travelers heading to the U.S. are being told to arrive three hours before their flight time.
Measures introduced at airports in Asia led to only minor delays, AP reported. At Incheon airport, South Korea’s main gateway, passengers and baggage were checked repeatedly in the customs, immigration and quarantine areas at the request of U.S. authorities.
The Associated Press reported that security measures also are leaving travelers somewhat confused.
Officials have given scarce details about the restrictions introduced over the weekend, saying they do not want terrorists to know about potential security measures. Many travelers said that, once on board their flights, they were banned from opening overhead bins or visiting the toilets during the last hour of flight. Some passengers said they were asked to remove blankets from their knees, the AP reported.
Airlines have some discretion on whether passengers have to keep their hands visible and can use the restroom during certain parts of the flight. Some airlines are even frisking babies, AP reported.
While European airport officials have increased security measures, none has announced the use of full-body scanners, which some believe would have prevented the alleged bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, from getting past security.
The British Broadcasting Corp. is reporting that Dutch airport authorities want the EU to make passenger scanners mandatory. Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport has 17 of the microwave-security scanners, but their use is voluntary because of privacy concerns, according to the BBC.
Stars and Stripes reporter Marcus Klöckner contributed to this story.