SEVERAL major airlines from Asia said the new security measures on all flights bound for the United States may include stricter passenger screening to comply with government requirements aimed at responding to threats of hidden explosives.
Airlines contacted by Reuters said the new measures, which started on Thursday, could include short security interviews with passengers at check-in or the boarding gate, sparking concerns over flight delays and extended processing time.
They will affect 325,000 airline passengers on about 2,100 commercial flights arriving daily in the US, on 180 airlines from 280 airports in 105 countries.
US Transportation Security Administration officials are giving some airlines or airports additional time to comply with the new interviews as long the US government has approved security plans by Thursday.
“TSA will continue to work closely with our aviation partners and verify that all security enhancements are accurately implemented,” TSA spokeswoman Lucy Martinez said in a statement Wednesday.
The US announced the new rules in June to end its restrictions on carry-on electronic devices on planes coming from 10 airports in eight countries in the Middle East and North Africa in response to concerns that explosives could be hidden in electronic devices.
Those restrictions were lifted in July, but the Trump administration said it could reimpose measures on a case by case basis if airlines and airports did not boost security.
European and US officials said at the time that airlines had 120 days to comply with the measures, including increased passenger screening. The 120-day deadline is Thursday. Airlines had until late July to expand explosive trace detection testing.
“We see this as a big issue for China Airlines,” Steve Chang, senior vice-president of the Taiwanese firm told reporters on Wednesday, adding the airline was trying to consult with the American Institute in the country over the issue.
South Korea’s flagship carrier Korean Air also said it had a lot of concerns with the new measures.
Korean Air president and chief operating officer Walter Cho told Reuters in Taipei:
“We are asking customers to show up at the airport early … It’s just inconvenient for the passengers.”
Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd said it would suspend in-town check-in and self bag-drop services for passengers booked on direct flights to the US. The airline said passengers would also have short security interviews and it has advised travelers to arrive three hours before departure.
Singapore Airlines said the security checks could include inspections of personal electronic devices as well as security questioning during check-in and boarding.
At their annual meeting in Taipei, Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) members passed a resolution calling for security measures to be risk-based, outcome-focused and proportionate to the probable threat.
“Unilateral actions taken by individual governments reacting to emerging threats may result in unnecessary disruption or lead to unintended safety consequences,” said the members.
AAPA includes most large Asian airlines but not mainland Chinese carriers.
“The risk is other countries make similar demands,” AAPA director-general Andrew Herdman said.
Additional reporting by Reuters