Tighter security checks kicked in yesterday at Changi Airport for travellers heading to the United States on non-stop flights from Singapore. This could lengthen queues and increase waiting times for these passengers.
The enhanced screening, which includes swabbing of laptops and other electronic devices for traces of explosives, is in line with new guidelines set by the US last month for incoming flights.
To comply, countries from which flights to the US take off must ramp up their screening processes.
Among other things, this will mean more regular pat-downs, heightened checks on personal electronic devices, more canine screening and tighter security protocols around aircraft and in passenger areas.
The checks are expected to affect 325,000 passengers a day at about 280 airports, said the US Department of Homeland Security.
Changi Airport Group spokes- man Ivan Tan told The Straits Times on the first day of the stepped-up screening yesterday: "The checks were conducted smoothly and there was minimal impact to passengers. We will monitor the situation and ensure adequate resources for security screening, to maintain a smooth passenger experience at Changi."
Airlines flying direct to the US from here and via stopovers have advised travellers to turn up earlier for their flights. "Reaching the airport about three hours before your flight should give you an ample buffer," said an airline representative who declined to be identified.
SMOOTH SO FAR
The checks were conducted smoothly and there was minimal impact to passengers. We will monitor the situation and ensure adequate resources for security screening, to maintain a smooth passenger experience at Changi. '
MR IVAN TAN, of Changi Airport Group.
Passengers flying to the US on one-stop flights, for example on Singapore Airlines via Hong Kong or Frankfurt, will be subjected to the tighter checks at the stop- over point.
The Straits Times, however, understands that United Airlines has introduced the enhanced screening at Changi Airport for travellers on its one-stop flights to the US.
The checks being done at Changi and other airports are aimed at increasing security without widening an in-cabin ban on laptops and other large electronic devices that was imposed for selected flights earlier this year.
In March, the US announced restrictions on laptops on flights originating at 10 airports in eight countries, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and Turkey. Travellers were told they had to check in the devices. The restriction came amid fears that a concealed bomb could be installed in electronic devices taken aboard aircraft. Britain quickly followed suit with a similar set of rules.
The ban had irked affected airlines and travellers alike. It is now being lifted and replaced with these new security measures.
Polytechnic lecturer Gary Ho, 42, who visits the US three or four times a year, said: "I value safety over convenience any time, but the laptop ban was just ridiculous. I much prefer the enhanced checks if it means I can carry my laptop and other devices with me."