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New Security Measures in Effect for International Flights to U.S.

By SHRM Online staff  1/5/2010
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Travelers entering the United States by air face new security measures, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced. The security directives apply to all U.S. and international air carriers on U.S.-bound international flights and mandate “threat-based and random screening” for passengers on such flights.

The measures, effective Jan. 4, 2010, come in the wake of a Dec. 25, 2009, aborted attempt to create an explosion aboard a Northwest Airlines plane. The flight originated in Nigeria and departed from Amsterdam en route to the U.S. A man attempted to ignite the device as the plane prepared to land in Detroit but was thwarted by crew and other passengers.

The new measures are mandated for every person flying into the United States “from anywhere in the world traveling from or through nations that are state sponsors of terrorism or other countries of interest,” the TSA said in a Jan. 3, 2010, news release.

No expiration date was given for the measures, which the TSA described as “long term” and developed “in consultation with law enforcement officials and our domestic and international partners.”

Passengers on such flights will undergo “enhanced screening,” according to the TSA, but it did not elaborate as to what that entails.

The terrorist attempt occurred nine days after TSA acting administrator Gale D. Rossides appeared before the Subcommittee On Transportation Security And Infrastructure Protection Committee On Homeland Security after some employees in December 2009 improperly posted TSA screening instructions on a federal web site.

In her Dec. 16 testimony, Rossides told the committee and the “traveling public” that “passengers will fly safely this holiday season and every day because of the layered security system we have in place.”

Two days after the terrorist attempt, the TSA indicated on its web site that passengers on international flights to the U.S. will see such security measures as “increased gate screening, including pat-downs and bag searches.”

The Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Travel Association called the new measures appropriate.

“It is no secret, however, that today’s travel security screening processes—domestic and international—are not as efficient and effective as travelers and our country demand,” the group’s president and CEO, Roger Dow, said in a Jan. 4, 2009, news release.

He estimated that nearly 60 million international visitors enter the U.S. annually, and more than 30 million travel by air.

“Recent events highlight the need for a detailed review of our current security apparatus and a comprehensive analysis of the most effective systems, techniques and technologies to secure the travel process,” Dow said.

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