Heading to US? More hassles await you at airports

WASHINGTON: Flying to the United States is about to get more inconvenient, all in the name of security.

New security measures take effect on Thursday at airports around the world. A spokeswoman for the Transportation Security Administration said the new steps will cover about 2,100 flights a day.

Here’s what you need to know.

Which airlines and passengers?

All of them. The new procedures apply to all flights to the US from other countries. They will apply to both American citizens and foreigners.

What’s new?

Travelers could face more detailed inspection of their electronic devices. And they could be subject to security interviews by airline employees, according to a US government official. The interviews could differ from one airline to another. Emirates said it will conduct screening interviews at check-in counters for passengers leaving Dubai. Air France said it will provide questionnaires for all US-bound passengers to fill out.

What should I do?

Delta Air Lines and Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways are telling international travelers to arrive at the airport at least three hours before their flight to allow time for security screening. Privately some airline officials worry that a major increase in passenger interviews could slow the boarding process and lead to flight delays.

Why now?

Thursday is the 120-day deadline set when the Trump administration announced enhanced screening procedures for US-bound flights. The measures take the place of a ban on laptops in the cabins of planes coming from 10 airports in eight predominantly Muslim countries: Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Morocco. The ban was announced in March and grew out of fear that terrorists could hide a bomb inside a laptop, but it was unpopular with passengers who had to place their electronics in checked baggage. It was dropped in July.

Can airlines handle this?

Most say they’re ready, and they’ve had four months’ notice. Still, at least one carrier, Royal Jordanian, says it got an exemption for more time to comply with the new rules. Vaughn Jennings, a spokesman for the trade group Airlines for America, says these are “complex security measures” but the Department of Homeland Security has been flexible, which is helping airlines comply.

What about airports?

The TSA says new measures include stricter security procedures in terminals and around planes.

What other services will change?

Airlines have flexibility in meeting the new security requirements. Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific Airways said it will suspend self-drop baggage service.

Does this only cover international flights?

So far. But TSA has also stepped up security rules for domestic flights.

Over the summer, TSA began requiring domestic passengers in standard screening lanes to remove all electronics bigger than mobile phones from their bags and place them in separate bins for X-ray screening.

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