Qatar Airways has a gate-side check for electronics larger than cellphones in carry-on bags for flights bound to the U.S. Workers swab a laptop and its cord on July 12, 2017, for traces of explosives before placing them in duty-free bags, which remain sealed until the passenger is aboard the plane. (Photo: Ben Mutzabaugh, USA TODAY)
Airlines and security officials are warning about tighter screening that went into effect Wednesday for hundreds of thousands of travelers who fly daily to the U.S. from hundreds of airports.
“Enhanced screening measures are in effect,” the Canadian Air Transport Security Association said in a warning to travelers. If selected for random additional screening, travelers will have to remove electronics from protective cases and turn them on. The association urged travelers to make sure devices are charged before traveling.
Aeromexico warned its passengers to get to the airport three hours ahead of direct flights to the U.S. for extra screening. The airline said the extra scrutiny is intended to confirm that the object is an electronic device and not a prohibited object. Electronics must be out of their cases and will be reviewed in the presence of the traveler, the airline said.
Japan Airlines tweeted about news coverage of tighter security.
TODAY IN THE SKY: Qatar Airways offers a glimpse of the new laptop security regime
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The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced the measures June 28 to better detect explosives hidden in electronics and to thwart airport workers from smuggling bombs onto planes.
The measures apply to 180 airlines flying to the U.S. from 280 airports in 105 countries. About 325,000 people fly to the U.S. on 2,000 flights daily. If airlines don’t meet the standards, they could ultimately face a laptop ban for carry-on and checked bags on flights to the U.S.
Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly called a new baseline for worldwide aviation security.
The department didn’t detail the extra steps, other than to say that travelers might see more 3D scanners, more swabbing for traces of explosives and more bomb-sniffing dogs at checkpoints.
The measures came after a March ban on electronics larger than cellphones in carry-on bags aboard nine airlines flying to the U.S. from 10 airports in the Middle East and Africa.
Those airlines were each removed from the ban this month. Extra security was visible for Qatar Airways in Doha, where laptops and their electric cords were swabbed for traces of explosives and sealed in duty-free bags until aboard their flight.
The greater scrutiny for electronics in carry-on bags began two days after the Federal Aviation Administration issued new information warning airlines about personal electronics in checked luggage.
The FAA alert Monday said security measures could encourage more passengers to pack electronics in checked luggage, but that remains a concern because of rare fires sparked by lithium-ion batteries in the electronics.
The FAA Tech Center tested electronics by placing heaters next to electronics in soft-sided bags, and found that batteries could spark fires with hazardous materials in the luggage. But in contrast to crew members and passengers noticing a fire in the cabin, a fire in cargo might “create conditions beyond what the airplane was designed to manage.”
For those reasons, FAA said generally that electronics such as laptops and cellphones “should be transported in carry-on baggage and not placed in checked baggage.” If packed in checked bags, electronics should be turned off and packed to protect them from damage, FAA said.
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