Why It Matters

Safe in the air with less hassle

Security screening and immigration checks are the biggest bugbears of travellers, according to 10,675 responses received from a recent survey by a global airline body. They hate having to remove personal items from their pockets and the inconvenience of having to unpack electronic devices in carry-on bags.

About one in two respondents in the survey done by the International Air Transport Association also said they were frustrated with the differences in screening procedures at different airports.

The security checks on travellers are about to get much tougher for those on non-stop flights to the United States. These include being questioned at check-in and boarding, more regular pat-downs, heightened checks on electronic devices, more screening by dogs and tighter security protocols around aircraft and in passenger areas.

The new guidelines were set by the US in July, and airlines were given 120 days - which ended on Wednesday - to comply. About 325,000 passengers a day at about 280 airports are expected to be affected, the US Department of Homeland Security has said.

The US authorities say the enhanced checks are necessary to avoid what is possibly a bigger pain - widening an in-cabin ban on laptops and other large electronic devices that was imposed on selected flights earlier this year. It is cold comfort for travellers, who are fed up and confused, with different rules at different airports.

Airlines are also struggling to understand and meet the requirements. There is no doubt the threat to aviation is real and growing. But with air traffic set to double in 20 years, continuously evolving security threats, and passengers increasingly dissatisfied with queues and intrusive measures, today's model is not sustainable in the long term. The International Civil Aviation Organisation - the United Nations arm that regulates global commercial aviation - needs to act urgently, and work with governments, airlines and other stakeholders, to push for global rules and standards to avoid unilateral action by individual states.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 27, 2017, with the headline 'Safe in the air with less hassle'. Print Edition | Subscribe