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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;
  • Increasing security protocols around aircraft and in passenger areas; and
  • Deploying advanced technology, expanding canine screening, and establishing additional preclearance locations.

For Travelers

The enhanced security measures are both seen and unseen; however, passengers flying to the United States may experience additional screening of their person and property. There are no changes to items allowed in carry-on and checked baggage.

When

Aviation security enhancements will be implemented in phases over the next several weeks and months. While some will be required immediately, other measures will be implemented over time, in coordination with our international partners.

Why

The United States and the global aviation community face an adaptive and agile enemy. Recently evaluated intelligence indicates terrorist groups continue to target the aviation sector and are actively seeking ways to circumvent aviation security.

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. Terrorist groups continue to target passenger aircraft, and we have seen a “spider web” of threats to commercial aviation as terrorist pursue new attack methods.  Based on these concerns, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is working with our 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: Intelligence is one aspect of the Department’s risk-based approach to protecting the traveling public. The record of terrorist attempts to target aircraft is longstanding and well-known: and terrorist groups continue to target the aviation sector DHS is continually re-assessing and evaluating intelligence to help inform security decisions.

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 current PEDs restriction implemented in March 2017 will be removed should the 10 airports comply with the enhanced security measures outlined in the TSA directive issued June 28, 2017 and when such procedures are verified by TSA inspectors.  For additional information on the current restrictions, visit DHS website: FAQ and Fact Sheet.

Q:  What are the security measures announced by Secretary Kelly and what is the timeline?

A:  Based on the current threat, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly has 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;
  • Increasing security protocols around aircraft and in passenger areas; and
  • Deploying advanced technology, expanding canine screening, and establishing additional preclearance locations

DHS will be approaching these enhancements in phases, some will be 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 will be implemented through a Security Directive (SD)/Emergency Amendment (EA) process, which requires carriers flying to the United States to implement these measures.

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:  The new procedures remain in place until the threat changes. These are risk-based decisions and DHS continuously assesses security risks and seeks 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 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 affect the traveling public and the screening process at these airports?

A:  The enhanced security measures are both seen and unseen but all passengers flying to the United States may experience additional screening of their person and property. We recommend that passengers flying to the United States prepare for a more extensive screening process.

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 its assessments of foreign airports and inspections of 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:  What happens if an aviation stakeholder is not in compliance with the security directive? 

A:  Over the next few weeks and months, DHS/TSA will work with aviation stakeholders to ensure these enhanced security measures are fully implemented. Those stakeholders who fail to implement these requirements and the follow-on measures within certain timeframes run the risk of additional security restrictions. Ultimately, failure to follow security directives can jeopardize an airline or airport’s ability to operate flights into the United States.

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:  Since adopting the large PED prohibition, DHS has been in constant contact with our interagency, industry and foreign partners to address evolving threats with a minimum of disruption to the traveling public. DHS developed these new enhanced security measures to effectively mitigate threats to aviation with minimum passenger inconvenience. Stakeholders who do not fulfill these requirements within certain timeframes may still be subject to additional security 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. See below.

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 explosive 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:  The United States is approaching these new security enhancements in phases. Some measures in the security directive will begin to be implemented immediately, while others will be implemented over time while working with our international partners.  Raising the baseline on global aviation security will require a long-term commitment from the United States and our international partners, and these new security enhancements are the beginning of that effort.

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

A:  DHS/TSA will work with aviation stakeholders to ensure these enhanced security measures are fully implemented, including through inspections, working-level technical exchanges, and ongoing capacity building efforts. As Secretary Kelly described, those who fail to adopt these requirements within specific timeframes run the risk of additional security restrictions being imposed, up to and including suspension of flights to the United States. The urgency of the threat requires all of us to raise the baseline on global aviation security and implement measures that exceed current standards.

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

A:  These enhanced security measures are just the beginning.  As threats continue to evolve, we, and our partners around the world, will continue to respond by working together to improve intelligence sharing and standardize best practices, while also seeking out the technological advancements 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:  The global community faces a high terror threat environment. Of particular concern, terrorists are stepping up efforts to target the aviation sector and continue to explore methods for attacking or compromising civilian aircraft. 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:  Does the Supreme Court’s recent action related to the Administration's executive order impact these announcements?

A:  No. The aviation security enhancements are unrelated to the Supreme Court's decision.

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 28, 2017

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