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Aviation Security

Image of an airplane taking off over a runwayThe U.S. Department of Homeland Security is working to raise the baseline for aviation security across the globe by implementing enhanced security measures, both seen and unseen, at all last-point-of-departure airports in 105 countries around world. These measures will be implemented in phases, in coordination with our international partners.

As we continue to face evolving threats, enhancing aviation security worldwide is critical in keeping the traveling public safe and secure.

Airports

There are more than 280 last-point-of-departure airports with direct commercial flights to the U.S., in 105 countries around the world. The enhanced security measures include but are not limited to:

  • Enhancing overall passenger screening;
  • Conducting heightened screening of personal electronic devices; and
  • Increasing security protocols around aircraft and in passenger areas.

For Travelers

The enhanced security measures are both seen and unseen, and passengers flying to the United States may experience additional screening of their person, property, and electronic devices.  This enhanced screening may result in extended wait times, and travelers are encouraged to arrive early for flights. There are no changes to items allowed in carry-on and checked baggage.

When

We cannot discuss specific timelines or measures, but some were required immediately, while others will be implemented over time, in coordination with our international partners.

Why

The decision to raise the global aviation security baseline is a result of the collection of evaluated intelligence over a long period of time.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q:  Why is the U.S. government taking measures now to address aviation security globally?

A:  The United States and the global aviation community face an adaptive and agile enemy and we must continually address the threat. Terrorist groups continue to target passenger aircraft, and we have seen a web of threats to commercial aviation as terrorist pursue new attack methods.  Based on these concerns, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) continues to work with international partners to raise the baseline of global aviation security to keep the traveling public safe.

Q:  Is there a credible threat to aviation?

A: Recently evaluated intelligence indicates terrorist groups continue to advance multiple efforts to target the aviation sector and are seeking ways to circumvent aviation security.

Q:  Did new intelligence drive a decision to modify security procedures?

A: The decision to raise the global aviation security baseline is a result of the collection of evaluated intelligence over a long period of time.

Q:  Is it safe to travel by air abroad?

A:  Yes – air travel remains safe and secure.  But we must stay ahead of terrorists by constantly adapting our security measures.

Q:  Is air travel in the United States safe?

A:  Yes – air travel in the U.S. remains safe and secure.  Today, air travelers in the United States are subject to a robust system that employs multiple layers of security, both seen and unseen, including but not limited to:

  • The use of intelligence and analysis;
  • Cross-checking passenger manifests against relevant databases;
  • Thorough screening at checkpoints;
  • Random canine team screening at airports;
  • Reinforced cockpit doors;
  • Federal air marshals;
  • Armed pilots; and
  • A vigilant public

Q:  Have the current restrictions changed regarding carrying on large personal electronic devices (PEDs) from 10 last point of departure airports with flights to the United States?

A:  The Transportation Security Agency (TSA) lifted the restrictions on large personal electronic devices for the ten airports/nine airlines in the Middle East and North Africa, announced in March. These airports and airlines have successfully implemented the first phase of enhanced security measures. For additional information, read the FAQ and Fact Sheet.

Q:  What are the security measures or requirements in the directive?

A:  As announced earlier this year, the Secretary of Homeland Security determined it is necessary to require enhanced security for all commercial flights to the United States. These measures both seen and unseen, include but are not limited to:   

  • Enhancing overall passenger screening;
  • Conducting heightened screening of personal electronic devices; and
  • Increasing security protocols around aircraft and in passenger areas.

These enhancements will occur in phases, and some were required immediately, while others will be implemented over time, in coordination with our international partners. 

Q:  How will these security requirements be implemented?

A: The required enhanced security measures were implemented through a Security Directive (SD)/Emergency Amendment (EA) process, which applies to carriers flying within or to the United States.

Q:  What are the specific requirements in the security directive?

A:  DHS/TSA does not discuss specific details related to security directives/emergency amendments.

Q: When will this security directive expire?

A:  These are risk-based decisions and we continuously assess security risks and seek to balance necessary security requirements with their operational impact on industry. However, the intention of raising the global bar with respect to aviation is to address a variety of current and evolving threats – not to address one specific method or effort of terrorists.

Q: How many flights does this affect?

A:  These new measures will impact all flights from airports that serve as last points of departure locations to the United States. The exact number of flights will vary on a day to day basis, but it will affect approximately 2,100 flights daily.

Q: Do these measures apply to preclearance airports?

A:  The aviation security enhancements apply to all last point of departure airports with flights to the United States, including preclearance airports.

Q: How do these measures apply to the traveling public and the screening process at these airports?

A:  The security measures affect all individuals, international passengers and U.S. citizens, traveling to the United States from a last point of departure international location. The general screening process will remain largely the same, but passengers may notice heightened screening requirements and are encouraged to cooperate with airline representatives, screeners, and officials.

Q:  Can you provide any examples of recent terrorist plotting against the aviation sector? 

A:  Although the United States has instituted robust aviation security measures since 9/11, evaluated intelligence indicates that terrorist groups’ efforts to execute an attack against the aviation sector are intensifying given that such attacks provide an opportunity to cause mass casualties and inflict significant economic damage, as well as generate heavy media coverage.

Terrorist propaganda has highlighted the attacks against aircraft in Egypt with a soda can packed with explosives in October 2015, and in Somalia using an explosives-laden laptop in February 2016. We have also seen recent attacks conducted at airports to include Brussels and Istanbul.

Terrorists tried to hide explosives in shoes in 2001, use liquid explosives in 2006, conceal explosives in printers in 2010, and place suicide devices in underwear in 2009 and 2012. For more information, visit TSA website: Transportation Security Timeline

Q:  How will TSA ensure foreign airports and air carriers are complying with the enhanced security measures?

A:  TSA will continue to asses foreign airports and inspect airlines to ensure all U.S. regulations and international security standards are being met at last point of departure airports to the United States.

TSA directly assesses the security posture of last points of departure airports under the Foreign Airport Assessment Program and evaluates the implementation of the internationally recognized International Civil Aviation Organization standards. TSA also utilizes its regulatory authorities over air carriers serving the United States to implement enhanced security measures at foreign locations. As an element of each air carrier’s approval to operate to and from the United States, the airline agrees to meet all security requirements stipulated by TSA.

Q:  Does TSA have to hire additional inspectors ensure the new screening procedures are followed?

A:  No, TSA currently has a robust workforce of Transportation Security Specialists to ensure that airports and air carriers around the globe are adhering to required standards.

Q:  Why not expand or implement a full ban on personal electronic devices?

A:  These new enhanced security measures were developed to effectively mitigate threats to aviation with minimum passenger inconvenience. Aviation partners that do not fulfill the security requirements within certain timeframes may still be subject to additional restrictions being imposed, including a ban on large personal electronic devices on aircraft.

Q:  Do the enhanced security measures apply to the United States?

A:  These measures apply to commercial flights headed into the United States; however, TSA has taken steps to mitigate threats domestically and ensure appropriate security measures for the protection of the traveling public.

Q:  What is the United States doing to increase security standards domestically?

A:  The U.S. government is constantly working to strengthen and expand our security posture in response to the evolving threat. From developing next generation screening technology in laboratories to preparing and sharing intelligence on threat, we are fully engaged in raising the security standards at home as well as around the world. The following are a few examples of measures underway domestically:

  • Piloting next generation technology;
  • Deploying explosives detection canine teams;
  • Enhanced screening of personal electronic devices larger than a cell phone;
  • Increased security of aircraft and airport;
  • Heightened screening of passengers and property; and,
  • Improved framework for public area security.

Q:  Why is DHS/TSA using a phased approach to improve security globally?

A:  Raising the baseline on global aviation security requires a long-term commitment from the United States and our international partners, and we understand that it takes time to fully implement new security measures, which is why a phased approach was most practical.

Q:  How will the United States continue to work with international partners to raise standards?

A:  DHS/TSA will work with aviation partners to ensure these enhanced security measures are fully implemented through actions such as inspections, working-level technical exchanges, and ongoing capacity building efforts.

Q:  What are longer-term efforts to raise the level of security globally?

A:  These enhanced security measures are an important step, but as threats continue to evolve, we, and our partners around the world, must continue to respond. We will do this by working together to improve intelligence sharing and standardize best practices, while also seeking out advanced technology, expanded canine screening, and establishment of additional preclearance locations that will make flying more secure for everyone.

Q:  Can you provide details on the list of 10 items to raise the baseline globally that DHS provided to foreign partners?

A:  While we can’t discuss specifics related to the plan, we’ll continue to move toward advancing operations and information sharing to raise the baseline on aviation security globally and implement measures that exceed current standards.

Q: What penalties will airlines/airports that do not comply face?

A:  Airlines that do not comply may face penalties such as being subjected to additional security restrictions, including a ban on large personal electronic devices on the aircraft, civil penalties, or even suspension of flights to the United States.

Q: How many airports/airlines have not complied?

A:  We cannot discuss specific details related to compliance of specific airports or airlines. Aviation partners that do not fulfill the security requirements within certain timeframes may still be subject to additional restrictions being imposed, including a ban on large personal electronic devices on aircraft.

Trusted Traveler Programs

DHS provides the only official US Government Trusted Traveler programs for travelers, customized to fit a variety of travel needs. Trusted Traveler programs allow members to use expedited lanes when crossing international borders, and at the airport.

Last Published Date: June 11, 2018

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May 21

Acting Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Claire Grady will travel to Sofia, Bulgaria to participate in the U.S. - EU Justice and Home Affairs Ministerial on Tuesday, May 22 and Wednesday, May 23.

May 2

DHS S&T and TSA are seeking innovative solutions from startups to enhance security screening, through a new solicitation under S&T’s Silicon Valley Innovation Program (SVIP) “Object Recognition and Adaptive Algorithms in Passenger Property Screening.”

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