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Obama Orders Security Upgrade

USA Today |  WASHINGTON — President Obama, declaring that the "buck stops with me" when it comes to protecting the nation from terrorists, ordered stepped up aviation security and released a declassified report on intelligence failures behind the near-catastrophic Christmas Day attack.

Under the directives issued Thursday, airline passengers will face more pat-downs and many will be put through body-scanning machines in coming months while counterterrorism officials revamp the government's terrorist watch lists and establish clearer lines of accountability to follow intelligence leads about plots.

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Airports Intensify Screening of Airline Passengers Heading to U.S.

The Globe and Mail |  Airline passengers heading to the United States met increased security screening Monday in airports around the world following U.S. requests for stricter checks after a Nigerian man allegedly tried to ignite explosives on a flight to Detroit.

Pakistan's national airline said it was intensifying security checks for U.S.-bound passengers, even though there are no direct flights to the States from Pakistan. Screening was also stepped up for those flying to the U.S. from other parts of Asia and the Middle East.

The U.S. Transportation Security Administration said people flying into the United States from countries such as Nigeria, Yemen, Pakistan, Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria are to face the extra screening, which is likely to annoy passengers already facing intrusive security procedures.

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Merry Christmas from the TSA

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Is it just me, or do the new airline security regulations make no sense?

So let’s get this straight. The shoe bomber led to the slip-off-your-shoes rule. Now the leg bomber has brought us this stay-in-your-seat-with-an-empty-lap-for-the-last-hour-of-flight regulation.

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New Restrictions Quickly Added for Air Passengers

New York Times | In the wake of the terrorism attempt Friday on a Northwest Airlines flight, federal officials on Saturday imposed new restrictions on travelers that could lengthen lines at airports and limit the ability of international passengers to move about an airplane.

The government was vague about the steps it was taking, saying that it wanted the security experience to be "unpredictable" and that passengers would not find the same measures at every airport—a prospect that may upset airlines and travelers alike.

But several airlines released detailed information about the restrictions, saying that passengers on international flights coming to the United States will apparently have to remain in their seats for the last hour of a flight without any personal items on their laps. It was not clear how often the rule would affect domestic flights.

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Massive TSA Security Breach

ABC News | In a massive security breach, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) inadvertently posted online its airport screening procedures manual, including some of the most closely guarded secrets regarding special rules for diplomats and CIA and law enforcement officers.

The most sensitive parts of the 93-page Standard Operating Procedures manual were apparently redacted in a way that computer savvy individuals easily overcame.

The document shows sample CIA, Congressional and law enforcement credentials which experts say would make it easy for terrorists to duplicate.

The improperly redacted areas indicate that only 20 percent of checked bags are to be hand searched for explosives and reveal in detail the limitations of x-ray screening machines.

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The FAA's Computers Are On The Fritz. Should I Worry?

Flights in several major hubs across the nation were heavily delayed early this morning by a glitch in an Federal Aviation Administration computer system that helps manage air traffic. The snafu resulted in no accidents, but it raises an obvious question: could future such problems put passengers in danger?

The short answer, according to FAA spokesman Hank Price, is no. “Radar coverage and communication with aircraft were never affected,” he told me. “So it’s not a safety problem at all.”

What happened was that the system that automatically generates flight plans crashed, forcing FAA personnel to input the data manually, and thereby slowing down the whole system. Flight plans are electronic documents that tell air traffic controllers where each aircraft is going, when, and by what route, and are required for all commercial flights. If an airliner’s crew can’t be issued a flight plan, it simply has to sit on the ground.

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"Secure Flight" Program Poses Problems for Name-Challenged

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Like many Americans, I have three names. Stuart Clark Mitchell. I like all of them, but they’ve led to confusion my entire life.

First of all, they could all be first or last names. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been called “Mitchell,” especially in situations where names on a roster are listed last name first. Secondly, my parents had the bright idea of calling me by my middle name (“Clark”). As a result, on the first day of every class in college, I had to explain that I was indeed “Stuart,” but “Clark” would be my preference. Then there’s the question of spelling—some, including a certain person on staff here at T+L, insist on making my name a little fancier by writing  “Clarke,” even after years of correcting.

While all of this may seem trivial compared to keeping our country safe, the new TSA program, Secure Flight, which launches early next year, is bound to affect people like me.

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Big Gulp–Gate: TSA Blogs About Britney's LAX Security Hullabaloo

There has been a bit of a fluster in the blogosphere in response to a video released yesterday by TMZ, showing Britney Spears passing through airport security at Los Angeles' LAX with a 7-Eleven Big Gulp in hand—and it wasn't confiscated by security, I might add.

The accusations were aplenty, most assuming the pop princess was granted special permission that allowed her to bypass common folk security regulations.

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