The foiled bombing of a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day, 2009 has led to stricter airport security measures for passengers traveling to the United States from other countries.
My family and I had the new security experience. A few days after the foiled terrorist attempt, we flew from Canada to the United States. After hearing about how bad delays were out of Canada's busiest airports like Toronto Pearson, Montreal Trudeau and Vancouver International, we were able to fly to the US direct out of a smaller airport. Essential really, since I have a toddler and a newborn to travel with.
So how were things different?
- Shoes were off (this isn't customary in all Canadian airports).
- And then there was the pat-down. Yes, the toddler and the baby were frisked from top to bottom as well.
- It was essentially a case of allowing for more time to get through security, as the customs process itself wasn't any different (in Canadian airports there are US customs agents, so you pre-clear customs in Canada).
- Airlines have been waiving fees for pieces of luggage that would normally be brought on board as carry-on luggage. I saw several people sent back to check some of their carry-on in, but allowed to keep their portable electronic devices, or books for example.
- In secondary airports like Halifax or Ottawa you are looking at adding some extra time (I allotted an extra 20 minutes and that was enough), but in larger airports delays as much as 6 to 8 hours have occurred. Again, this is for flights to the United States. Similar experiences are being reported from airports in Europe for flights to the US. I mention the Canadian experience for the sheer number of flights daily between the two countries, and because there is a high volume of both business and leisure travelers that are being affected.
- The new regulations for flights to the United States from other countries allows for one carry-on item.
- For domestic flights there haven't been any changes to standard airport security screening. In fact, officials in Detroit - where the flight spawning the tighter security measures was destined - have asked passengers to show up early but not too early as those with afternoon flights were showing up 4 to 6 hours early and were causing congestion at security screening points for passengers with morning flights.
Additional searches of passengers and their exempted items will continue. Delays can be expected so passengers are advised to arrive at the airport three hours in advance of their scheduled flight."