Travellers to the US face stricter checks; SIA advises passengers to arrive at airport early

Singapore Airlines put up a notice on its website yesterday to remind travellers of the tighter security screening. SCREENGRAB: SINGAPOREAIR.COM

SINGAPORE - Travellers on all non-stop flights to the United States, including those from Singapore, should be prepared for tighter security checks that may include being questioned at check-in and boarding.

More regular pat-downs, heightened checks on personal electronic devices, more canine screening and tighter security protocols around aircraft and in passenger areas, are also expected.

The enhanced checks are in line with new guidelines set by the US in July, for incoming flights.

Airlines were given 120 days, which ended on Wednesday (Oct 25), to comply with the new rules.

The checks are expected to affect 325,000 passengers a day at about 280 airports, said the US Department of Homeland Security.

Passengers flying to the US on one-stop flights, for example on SIA via Hong Kong or Frankfurt, are subjected to the tighter checks at the stop-over point.

SIA put up a notice on its website on Wednesday to remind travellers of the tighter security screening, although The Straits Times understands that checks at Changi Airport were already intensified in July, soon after the US announcement.

"Customers are advised to refer to the respective check-in counter opening hours, and to arrive at the airport early to allow sufficient time for enhanced security measures" the airline said.

The checks being done at Changi and other airports aim to increase 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.

The ban, which had irked affected airlines and travellers alike, has since been lifted and replaced with these new security measures.

Even as airlines have no choice but to comply to the new rules, industry bodies, like the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA), have raised concerns over the impact of such measures.

AAPA director-general Andrew Herdman told reporters at an industry conference in Taipei, yesterday: "Essentially, the US requirements mean you have to provide pre-check in screening of passengers and that may involve interviewing passengers and that involves training a lot of frontline staff either your own or an appointed agent to carry out such activities.

"It has to be done and it is additional cost. Who pays the cost? Ultimately it will have to be the passenger. I don't think the costs have been estimated but they have been significant," he said.

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