National News

Heightened in-flight security rules eased, officials say

Posted December 28, 2009

— In-flight security rules have been eased after a two-day clampdown, airline officials familiar with the matter said Monday.

At the captain's discretion, passengers can once again have blankets and other items on their laps or move about the cabin during the tail end of flight. In-flight entertainment restrictions have also been lifted.

RDU airport security tighter RDU airport security tighter

The airline officials spoke on condition of anonymity because federal safety officials had not publicly announced the changes.
Security rules were relaxed in the last 24 hours, one official said.

Tougher airline security measures were imposed Friday after a man flying from Nigeria to Amsterdam then to the U.S. on a Northwest Airlines flight tried to ignite an explosive as the plane prepared to land in Detroit. On Sunday, police met another Amsterdam-to-Detroit flight after the crew reported a "verbally disruptive passenger." A law enforcement official said the man posed no security risk to the plane.

Government officials have refused to discuss what restrictions had been put into place, but in many airports lines were longer and security personnel were extra diligent.

Travelers on incoming international flights said that during the final hour, attendants removed blankets, banned opening overhead bins, and told passengers to stay in their seats with their hands in plain sight.

At Raleigh-Durham International Airport, where about 30,000 travelers were expected to pass through Monday, there were more security officers, K-9s and screenings at the gate.

"Security was really tight," traveler David Lee said. "We had to go through three security checks."

Others said security checks seemed no different than before.

"It seems the same," Patrick Montello said. "I haven't flown for a couple months, but it doesn't seem any different to me now than it did back then."

Travelers elsewhere across the country had different stories.

In Philadelphia, Leslie Bernal said security was much tighter as she returned from the Dominican Republic than it had been in September, when she made the same trip. Bernal said security screeners in Santo Domingo asked her to lift her long hair so they could look at her back.

"I don't mind at all," she said. "I'd rather them do what they have to do."

Authorities introduced a second layer of security at Pearson International Airport in Toronto. On Monday morning, every U.S.-bound passenger was subjected to a pat down and their luggage was inspected by hand. It took about three hours for travelers to get through the checks.

On one Air Canada flight from Toronto to New York's La Guardia Airport the crew told passengers before departure that in addition to remaining in their seats for the duration of one-hour flight, they were not allowed to use any electronic devices - even iPods - or their own headphones. The crew also told passengers that they would not be able to access their personal belongings because of the "enhanced security procedures."

At Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, television screens were tuned to the Atlanta Falcons football game, and some passengers were only faintly aware of Friday's incident in Detroit.

Jeff Fox, of Alpharetta, Ga., who was returning with his family from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. after a weeklong cruise, said he will tolerate new restrictions if officials think they will keep passengers safer.

"I'm one of those who trusts that they're trying to do the right thing, even if it is a pain," he said.

The incident Friday, however, continued to raise questions about security, said Jack Riepe, a spokesman for the Association of Corporate Travel Executives.

Riepe said corporate travel managers want to know how Friday's suspect reached Detroit even though he was on a watch list maintained by counterterrorism experts. A government official said the suspect's father raised concerns about him to U.S. officials several weeks ago, but the father's information about his son's possible ties to fundamentalist Islamic groups was too vague to act upon.

U.S. airlines have been appealing to federal officials to make restrictions effective but palatable to passengers.

They remember that passengers accepted tough new security measures immediately after the 2001 terror attacks, which grounded all flights for several days, but that support for the restrictions waned.


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  • geosol Dec 28, 2009

    Amazing, isn't it? Right wing extremists get a pass these days. "They only blow up things that (we think) need to be blown up". No extremism or hypocrisy there, eh?

  • wattsun Dec 28, 2009

    Flight 253 passenger: Sharp-dressed man aided terror suspect Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab onto plane without passport:

    Interesting twist to this story.

  • dmn Dec 28, 2009

    Timothy McVeigh, Eric Rudolph.
    Al Qaeda?????
    Those guys you listed hated the government and abortion doctors. They were not the ones blowing up airplanes or flying them into buildings. I really wish someone would explain to me the mentality of the left because I'll never figure them out.

  • geosol Dec 28, 2009

    Timothy McVeigh, Eric Rudolph.

  • dmn Dec 28, 2009

    Last time I looked there were al-queda terrorists from all ethnic groups.
    Where is your evidence of this statement?

  • dmn Dec 28, 2009

    dmn: its a good thing you're not in charge of anything but yourself
    Typical leftist, ignore the message and attack the messenger. When are people going to wake up and acknowledge reality.

  • cary2006 Dec 28, 2009

    what has political correctness do with the initial knee jerk reaction of TSA? Who is TSA being PC about?

    Stop repeating some radio host words. Use your brains.

    I support TSA doing a full cavity search before you board any flight - that includes blondes with german last name or blacks or middle eastern looking person. Last time I looked there were al-queda terrorists from all ethnic groups.

    But then you will rant about Obama and socialism .......

  • iwondersometimes Dec 28, 2009

    Time for Obama to have another "beer sit down" with all involved. A few apologies, a few handshakes and we should all be safe to fly again. Simple, isn't it?

  • bnice1984 Dec 28, 2009

    dmn: its a good thing you're not in charge of anything but yourself

  • grayboomerang Dec 28, 2009

    It will happen almost happened this time. The terrorists know that our officals don't get it. They are too busy trying to be politcally correct and pleasing everyone. What is the point of only raising security for a couple of days? Those passengers on that flight were darn lucky.