Family Travel Forum urges families flying to the U.S. to prepare for new security regulations in place at international airports around the world.
Since Northwest Flight 253 was threatened on December 25, 2009 by a passenger carrying explosives, the United States Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and many international governments have imposed confidential air travel security measures that will impact travelers around the world.
We alert all travelers, especially families with young children who may be carrying gift items or toys, to be prepared for the enhanced and possibly invasive security procedures. As Department of Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano has cautioned, "These measures are designed to be unpredictable, so passengers should not expect to see the same thing everywhere."
10 Facts Travelers Should Know
On January 4, 2010, the TSA issued a clarification of its new direction for international security measures. We quote: "TSA is mandating that every individual flying into the U.S. from anywhere in the world traveling from or through nations that are state sponsors of terrorism or other countries of interest will be required to go through enhanced screening. The directive also increases the use of enhanced screening technologies and mandates threat-based and random screening for passengers on U.S. bound international flights."
According to the New York Times, all travelers carrying passports from 14 specific countries, as well as any traveler transiting through any of these countries on their way to the United States will be subject to enhanced screening, including full-body scanners where available, or full-body pat-downs. The countries noted are Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria (“state sponsors of terrorism”) plus Afghanistan, Algeria, Lebanon, Libya, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Yemen, referred to as “countries of interest.”
What does this mean for the family traveler? For the domestic traveler, not much, not yet. But for the international traveler, here's a breakdown of whats likely to happen on your next airport visit.
* Enhanced security precautions are in place at all international airports with flights to the U.S.
* Passengers must arrive especially early for any international flight as enhanced security on U.S. Bound flights is affecting all travel times.
* All carry-on bags are being subjected to extra security screenings, causing delays at security gates.
* The Canadian government has banned all carry-on bags for passengers traveling to the U.S. because new screening requirements are causing excessive delays. Only exceptions are purses, cameras, coats, laptops, musical instruments, medical devices and items for baby care.
* TSA urges all travelers to check as much carry-on baggage as possible but says that items such as car seats will be accepted on board flights.
* Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air are both waiving some baggage fees for the mandatory checked baggage on flights to the U.S. from Mexico and Canada.
* According to the TSA, all passengers regardless of age (including minors and unaccompanied minors) will be subject to additional screening if selected at random or if circumstances warrant.
* Secondary passenger screenings are very likely to include full-body scanners (an extra revealing type of digital imaging), full body pat-downs and manual inspection of all hand carried items.
* In flight, at the discretion of the pilot and the individual airline, passengers may be required to stow all their personal belongings for any portion of the flight.
* In flight, passengers may be required to remain in their seats with their hands fully exposed to view, for any portion of the flight but most likely, for the final hour of the flight.
Additionally, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reminds travelers that, according to the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, all U.S. and Canadian citizens, age 16 and older must present a valid, acceptable travel document that denotes both identity and citizenship when entering the U.S. by land or sea. All air travelers of any age are required to present a passport at time of entry to the U.S.
We suggest that parents discuss these enhanced security procedures with their children prior to travel, and that travelers use the CBP website to check on the estimated waiting times at all U.S. air, land and sea borders before making their travel plans.
According to TSA spokesperson Ann Davis, these security precautions and other undisclosed ones will remain in effect indefinitely.
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