KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysia Airlines (MAS) and Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) have tightened flight security in the air and on the ground in the wake of the Flight MH370 tragedy.
The pilot and a co-pilot are now not allowed to be left alone in the cockpit, even when one of them is taking a toilet break, according to a MAS circular.
Under the new rules, a cabin crew member has to be in the cockpit until the pilot or co-pilot returns from the restroom.
When bringing food to the cockpit, a flight attendant is required to stand guard at the door to make sure no passenger enters the restricted area.
Datuk Capt Missman Leham, MAS chief pilot for flight safety and human factors, issued the circular to all flight deck crews.
On the ground, MAHB has made it mandatory for anyone taking an international flight to pass through two metal-detectors and undergo a body search before they board.
The travellers must now also remove their shoes, belt, jackets and any electronic devices such as cellphones and laptop computers for separate scanning. Bottled drinking water is not allowed to be brought aboard.
The United States, Britain and Australia had asked that security checks on all passengers flying to the countries be increased.
MAHB has also extended such checks to other international flights and has adopted the same prohibited items list applied by the US Transportation Security Administration.
The rules came into effect the week of March 8, the day that Flight MH370 to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur disappeared with 239 passengers and crew aboard.
A MAS spokesman confirmed that the airline has increased security and enhanced monitoring procedures on board all its aircraft.
"However, for security purposes we are unable to discuss any of these procedures publicly.
"Security checks are mandated by the aviation security authorities and conducted by them," the spokesman said.
There are already several security and safety procedures for cockpit crew and aircraft, a MAS pilot told The Star.
He said there was a rule that pilot and co-pilot were each served a different set of meal, which was to avoid any likelihood of both coming down with food poisoning at the same time.
"Another measure requires crew members to thoroughly check all compartments in the cockpit, cabin, crew rest areas, galley and toilets for any foreign objects before the passengers board.
"Stewards and stewardesses must also watch out for travellers behaving suspiciously or passengers taking hand luggage into the toilet," said the pilot who asked not to be identified.
MAHB reminded all travellers departing from the KLIA for international destinations that they should check in within the stipulated three-hour period.
"This is so that they will have adequate time to clear immigration and security checks. The stringent checks are for the safety of the aircraft, passengers and crew, and everyone should give us their full cooperation," said the spokesman.