New screening protocols, full body scans and mandatory ID verification at least 72 hours in advance of flights are among new regulations.
In response to two packages sent by air freight to the United States and found to contain explosive devices, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has issued new alerts asking for traveler cooperation in the battle against terrorism. According to their consumer outreach: "DHS has taken a number of steps to enhance security. The public may recognize specific enhancements including heightened cargo screening and additional security at airports."
Heightened Cargo & Passenger Screening
DHS has announced that inbound cargo targeting rules have been adapated to reflect the latest intelligence, creating new screening procedures for select cargo. Additionally, the DHS has ordered a halt on all air cargo coming from Yemen and Somalia until those countries have new security measures in place.
Certain items such as toner and ink cartridges over 16 ounces (used in the recent attempts) will be prohibited on passenger aircraft in both carry-on bags and checked bags on domestic and international flights in-bound to the United States.
As they have in past years, passengers should remain vigilant about their surroundings and belongings, and continue to expect an unpredictable mix of security layers that include explosives trace detection, advanced imaging technology, canine teams and pat downs, among others. Families planning holiday travel should prepare children for the variety of airport security stations they may have to traverse on the way to their plane, or even entering important government buildings and public institutions as they travel around the United States.
Heightened Passenger Identification Systems
In another security measure, beginning November 1, 2010 the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is enforcing the Secure Flight program to provide uniform watch list matching. According to the TSA, by establishing one consistent way to match travelers with names that are on a terror watch list, Secure Flight enhances aviation security and helps to make travel easier for passengers.
While enhanced IDs may be acceptable to travelers, the new backscatter X-Ray security devices being implemented in U.S. Airports, plus the enhanced patdowns that many passengers are subjected to, have raised enormous concerns. Air Rage by humiliated passengers and privacy advocates has grown to the point that a recent TravelGuard insurance survey found that, over Thanksgiving, 43% of those polled plan to arrive to the airport earlier than ever before, and 35% plan to depart a few days earlier than usual and/or return a few days after the holiday.
How will Secure Flight Affect My Family?
Nonetheless, the Secure Flight program is here to stay. It requires that all passengers of any age have Secure Flight Passenger Data (SFPD) in their flight reservation at least 72 hours prior to departure. This is required no matter the destination or the age of each passenger, similar to the ESTA program required of foreigners visiting the U.S. You will be unable to travel without providing this information.
Under the Secure Flight program, passengers are required to provide:
— Full name (as it appears on passenger’s government-issued identification document)
— Date of birth
— Redress Number for complaints (if available)
You will need to provide this information at the time of booking or as part of your mileage awards program, in the case of airlines who will synchronize the data for you. Your airline will send the information you provide to TSA, who will match it against the consolidated government watch lists. Please note that boarding passes may not always display the exact information you provided when booking your travel; it is the name you provide when booking travel that is used to perform watch list matching before a boarding pass is ever issued.
Secure Flight & Passenger Data Protection
Secure Flight is designed to enhance the security of domestic and international commercial air travel by streamlining the DHS watch list matching process. It also enables officials to address security threats sooner by providing earlier insight into potential matches to the watch list prior to departure. Furthermore, by creating one watch list matching system, it is supposed to help prevent the misidentification of passengers who have names similar to individuals on the consolidated government watch lists.
TSA says it collects the minimum amount of personal information and handles personal data in accordance with stringent guidelines and all applicable privacy laws and regulations. Their assurances have failed miserably when it comes to the revealing digital body scans taken by backscatter X-ray machines, which an investigative reporter found were being saved, stored and reviewed by Federal Marshalls in a Florida County Courthouse, apparently without TSA knowledge.
What Do I Do if I'm Mistaken for Someone Else?
Those passengers who believe they have been misidentified as a match to the watch lists are invited to apply for redress through the Department of Homeland Security Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (DHS TRIP). Secure Flight uses the results of the redress process in its watch list matching process, thus preventing future misidentifications for passengers who may have a name that is similar to an individual on the watch list.
To learn more about Secure Flight visit TSA.gov/SecureFlight.
The wonderful airport security cartoon was sent to the FTF office in a chain email, and appears to have been drawn by O. Summers for the Orlando Sentinel.
This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question, and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.