The US government has announced heightened security screening for all US-bound commercial flights, including greater checks of passengers' personal electronic devices.
The move is estimated to impact about 2,100 daily flights operated by 180 airlines from 280 airports that are the last points of departure, says the US Department of Homeland Security. About 325,000 daily passengers will be subject to the enhanced security screening.
DHS is not expanding a controversial ban on large electronic devices in the cabins of commercial aircraft, now in place for flights leaving 10 airports. Instead, the ban will be removed if the 10 airports comply with the new enhanced security measures, it says.
Citing recent intelligence, the agency says it believes that terrorist groups are continuing efforts to target the aviation sector.
"We cannot play international whack-a-mole with each new threat. Instead, we must put in place new measures across the board to keep the traveling public safe and make it harder for terrorists to succeed," said DHS secretary John Kelly in a speech at a security conference today.
US agencies will work with airlines and airports to roll out the additional screening in the next "several weeks and months", says the DHS.
Besides increased screening of personal electronic devices, US-bound travellers can expect enhanced "overall passenger screening". Additional security measures will take place behind the scenes, in the form of increased security around aircraft and in passenger areas. The DHS also plans to deploy advanced technology, expand canine screening and set up more pre-clearance locations.
Pre-clearance airports, which allow passengers to clear US immigration and customs control in a foreign country, will also be subject to the enhanced security measures.
Kelly warns that airlines and airports who do not co-operate with the new measures could face consequences. These include a ban on electronic devices on their flights, or a total suspension of flights to the US.
The latest security measures are likely to allay the airline industry's fears, after widespread speculation that US authorities would expand the controversial electronics ban to more foreign airports.
Airlines affected by that ban had reported an impact on US-bound traffic after it was implemented in March.
DHS appears to have taken into account the feedback it received on the electronics ban, saying the new enhanced security measures were developed to "effectively mitigate threats to aviation with minimum passenger inconvenience".
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