WASHINGTON/TAIPEI - New security measures including stricter passenger screening take effect on Thursday on all U.S.-bound flights to comply with government requirements designed to avoid an in-cabin ban on laptops, airlines said.
Airlines contacted by Reuters said the new measures 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 2,000 commercial flights arriving daily in the United States, on 180 airlines from 280 airports in 105 countries.
The United States 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 unspecified security threats.
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 U.S. 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.
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Asian airlines have lots of concerns
"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.
Korean Airlines, South Korea's flagship carrier, also said it had a lot of concerns with the new measures.
"We are asking customers to show up at the airport early ... It's just inconvenient for the passengers," president and COO Walter Cho told Reuters in Taipei.
Lufthansa Group said on Tuesday the measures would be in place by Thursday and travelers could face short interviews at check-in or at the gate.
Economy passengers on Lufthansa's Swiss airline have been asked to check in at least 90 minutes before departure.
Airlines for America, a U.S. trade group, said the changes "are complex security measures," but praised U.S. officials for giving airlines flexibility in meeting the new rules.
Alexandre de Juniac, CEO of the International Air Transport Association, said the industry understood security threats to aviation were made regularly but in this case the U.S. government had not shared any specific dangers before changing the rules.
"What we have seen is very strange," he told reporters in Taipei. "Unilateral measures announced without any prior consultation... That is something that is very concerning and disturbing."
U.S. authorities in June also increased security around aircraft and in passenger areas, and other places where travelers can be cleared by U.S. officials before they depart.
Unilateral measures announced without any prior consultation... That is something that is very concerning and disturbing.Alexandre de Juniac, CEO of International Air Transport Association
A Transportation Security Administration spokeswoman declined to discuss the specific changes, but said "the United States continues to work with our partners to raise the baseline of global aviation security and keep the entire traveling public safe."
The TSA said in July it was imposing new security rules requiring U.S. domestic airline travelers to remove all electronic items larger than mobile phones such as tablets, e-readers and video game consoles from carry-on baggage for screening.
Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington and Jamie Freed in Taipei; Additional reporting by Victoria Bryan in Berlin; Editing by Steve Orlofsky, Himani Sarkar and Mark Potter
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