US issues revised directive to international airlines clarifying security measures

Washington: The US Department of Homeland Security has issued a revised directive to airlines around the world in response to requests that it clarify aviation security measures scheduled to begin taking effect next week, the agency said on Friday.

"This clarifying update will strengthen global aviation security and is a testament to our shared commitment to raising the baseline," said James Gregory, a spokesman for the US Transportation Security Administration, which is part of the DHS.

An airline official briefed on the matter said the directive gives airlines more flexibility and additional time to obtain explosive trace detection equipment. The official was not authorised to discuss sensitive security issues with the media and requested anonymity.

Department of Homeland Security. Reuters

Department of Homeland Security. Reuters

The directive includes technical adjustments, agency officials said, declining to release the text. European airlines have been pushing for changes to meet the new requirements, which begin taking effect on 19 July. The new requirements include enhanced passenger screening at foreign airports, increased security protocols around aircraft and in passenger areas and expanded canine screening. They affect 3,25,000 airline passengers on about 2,000 commercial flights arriving daily in the United States, on 180 airlines from 280 airports in 105 countries.

On 28 June, US Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly unveiled enhanced security measures for all foreign flights arriving in the United States, which officials said were designed to end a limited in-cabin ban on laptops and prevent the ban's expansion to additional airports.

In March, DHS imposed restrictions on passengers carrying large electronics like laptops in cabins on nine airlines, most of which were Middle Eastern carriers, to address the potential threat of hidden explosives.

On Thursday, DHS removed those restrictions on Royal Air Maroc flights out of Casablanca's Mohammed V airport, leaving just Saudi Arabian Airlines under the restrictions. Gregory said DHS expects the ban to be lifted on those remaining flights by 19 July.

European and US officials told Reuters that airlines had 21 days from 28 June, or until 19 July, to put in place increased explosive trace detection screening and 120 days to comply with other security measures, including enhanced screening of airline passengers.

One issue, European airline officials said, was whether some explosive screening could be done at a central point, rather than at gates.

DHS spokesman David Lapan said this week that US officials are working with airlines. "Some airports, airlines will be able to get there more quickly," Lapan said.

Gregory separately denied a report that the new measures could require in-person check in for US flights. "None of the measures impact the ability of an airline to offer kiosk or on-line check in," he said.

Updated Date: Jul 15, 2017 12:02 PM

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