US-bound Passengers Face New Security Interviews At Check-In

Washington (AFP) – US-bound travelers will face security
interviews before checking in for flights at a number of global
airlines beginning Thursday as anti-terror measures are
stepped up around the world.

Lufthansa, Emirates, Air France and Norwegian Air confirmed
to AFP Wednesday that US authorities had asked for tougher
controls at departure airports for non-stop flights to the United
States. Other carriers issued statements also confirming the
new measures.

“In addition to the controls of electronic devices already
introduced, travelers to the USA might now also face short
interviews at check-in, document check or gate,” a Lufthansa
spokesperson said.

“The implementation will take place on October 26. The security‎ of our passengers and staff is our top priority.”

Emirates said passengers would be subjected to “pre-screening‎ interviews at the check-in counter” whereas Air France said it‎ expected to apply an additional “security interview.”

Cathay Pacific said it would halt services allowing passengers
to check in luggage from downtown Hong Kong or curbside at
the airport, and instead interview them at check-in gates.

– Longer check-ins expected –

The airlines suggested that passengers arrive early for their
flights to account for any additional delays caused by the new
rules.

Norwegian said that its passengers would receive instructions
by SMS message and that check-in desks would open four
hours before departure for flights to the United States.

The US Transportation Security Administration confirmed that
a package of new security measures, including direct screening of passengers, more checks for personal electronic devices,‎ and other measures, were being introduced.

Spokeswoman Lisa Martinez said the measures would affect
around 2,100 daily flights to the United States from around the
world.

“These measures, both seen and unseen, include enhanced
screening of passengers and electronic devices as well as
heightened security standards for aircraft and airports,” she
said.

But she would not confirm the specific use of check-in
interviews.

– Worries over terrorism –

The new measures came as President Donald Trump’s
administration is working to toughen controls on refugees and
immigrants amid worries that jihadist groups like Islamic State
and Al-Qaeda are both trying to send potential attackers into
the United States and to smuggle bombs on board a US-bound
flight.

On Tuesday, Trump issued an executive order ending a
moratorium on refugee arrivals but re-imposing controls on
those coming from 11 countries, most of them with Muslim
majorities.

Previously, the administration has banned laptops and larger
electronics from cabins on flights from certain Middle East
hubs, and has attempted to impose a blanket visa ban on
some countries — a measure now tied up in the courts.

The White House has insisted the new controls are designed as
anti-terror safeguards but Trump’s critics have accused him of
unfairly targeting Muslims with blanket measures.

Last week US lawmakers from the House Homeland Security
Committee visited airports in Europe and the Middle East to
inspect security conditions and discuss counter-terror
cooperation.

“The timing of this visit to Europe and the Middle East was
critical, as terrorists remain intent on taking down aircraft,”
said Representative John Katko in a statement Wednesday.
“We must do all that we can to stay ahead of the evolving
threat to the global aviation sector.”

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