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Q&A: Aviation Security Enhancements for Select Last Point of Departure Airports with Commercial Flights to the United States (Updated July 21, 2017)

Release Date: 
March 21, 2017

Updated Date: July 21, 2017
Previous Releases: July 17, 2017 | July 14, 2017 | July 12, 2017 | July 10, 2017 | April 7, 2017 | March 21, 2017

Office of the Press Secretary
Contact: 202-282-8010

[NOTE: These are the most current answers to frequently asked questions regarding recent aviation security enhancements, specifically which airports are currently affected.  For the original list of affected airports, please see previous releases listed above.]

Q1: Why is the U.S. Government taking these steps now? Are these new policies in response to a specific terrorist threat or plot?

A1: The United States and the global aviation community face an adaptive and agile enemy.  Terrorists continue to target commercial aviation, and their efforts have evolved into a web of threats including innovative methods for attacking passenger aircraft.  Based on these threats, DHS has determined that it is imperative to raise the baseline of global aviation security to keep the traveling public – Americans and foreign travelers – safe.

In response, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), in consultation with relevant departments and agencies, developed enhanced security measures, both seen and unseen, for passengers at all last point of departure airports to the United States.  

The 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.

As threats continue to evolve, we, and our partners around the world, will work together to improve intelligence sharing and standardize best practices, while also pursuing technological advancements that will make flying more secure for everyone.

Q2: Is there a specific or credible threat to aviation?

A2: We have reason to be concerned about attempts by terrorist groups to circumvent security in order to target aviation interests.  Implementing additional security measures enhances our ability to mitigate further attempts against the overseas aviation industry.

Q3: Did new intelligence drive a decision to modify security procedures?

A3: Yes, intelligence is one aspect of every security related decision. The record of terrorist attempts to destroy aircraft in flight is longstanding and well-known. We continually re-assess old intelligence and collect new intelligence.

Q4: How long will these new procedures remain in place?

A4: While DHS/TSA will continue to reassess and alter security measures based on the latest threat information and new developments in security technologies and procedures, these particular measures are part of our overall effort to permanently raise the baseline of global aviation security.  

Q5: How have these measures affected the traveling public and the screening process at international airports?

A5: Passengers flying to the United States may experience additional screening of their person and property.  We continue to recommend that passengers flying to the United States prepare for a more extensive screening process.

Q6: Is air travel safe?

A6: Yes.  The enhanced security measures impact all direct flights to the United States will improve screening of passengers and electronic devises and heighten security standards globally for aircraft and airports.

Domestically, air travelers are subject to a robust security system that employs multiple layers of security, both seen and unseen, including:

  • Intelligence gathering and analysis
  • Cross-checking passenger manifests against watch lists
  • Thorough screening at checkpoints
  • Random canine team screening at airports
  • Reinforced cockpit doors
  • Federal air marshals
  • Armed pilots
  • A vigilant public

In combination, these layers provide enhanced security creating a much stronger and protected transportation system for the traveling public. TSA continually assesses and evaluates the current threat environment and adjusts security measures as necessary to ensure the highest levels of aviation security without unnecessary disruption to travelers.

Q7: How will TSA ensure foreign airports and air carriers are complying with the new procedures?

A7: TSA officials will confirm implementation with visits to ensure the measures have been implemented correctly and to the full extent required.  Following the initial visit, TSA officials will then resume their regularly scheduled visits to observe operations.

Q8: Will the security procedures continue to apply to both international and domestic passengers?

A8: The enhanced security measures apply to all passengers traveling to the U.S. from any international airport.

Q9: Why are you only implementing these measures overseas; could the same tactics be used domestically?

A9: 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;
  • Enhancing screening of personal electronic devices larger than a cell phone;
  • Increasing security of aircraft and airport;
  • Implementing heightened screening procedures of passengers and property; and,
  • Improving framework for public area security.

Q10: Does TSA have to hire additional officers, or transfer some to the affected airports, to ensure the new screening procedures are followed?

A10: 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

Q11: Are the security measures introduced on July 2, 2014, still in place?

A11: Because the new measures overlap the 2014 measures in many areas and are designed to mitigate similar risks, these new security regulations supersede those from 2014.

Q12: How many flights does this affect?

A12: This impacts flights from all international airports with direct routes to the United States, which averages to around 2,100 flights from approximately 280 airports and 180 airlines operating out of 105 countries.

Q13: How many passengers will be affected?

A13: Passenger numbers will fluctuate, but approximately 325,000 passengers fly into the U.S. from international locations daily.

Q14: Will this affect passengers enrolled in trusted traveler programs?

A14: These measures will apply to all international passengers on direct flights to the United States.

Q15: What do you recommend passengers do if they are flying out of one of the last point of departure airports?

A15: DHS and TSA outlined required security enhancements as part of our commitment to raising the baseline on global aviation security, but the directive provides flexibility for the airlines to implement the measures in alignment with their operations and customer service goals.  Therefore, passengers should check with their airline on specific information regarding their flight.

Q16: How will this affect the screening process at the airport?

A16: We have provided guidance on the security measures directly to the airlines who will then determine how to implement and inform their passengers.  However, passengers should be prepared for a more extensive screening experience when flying into the United States from a foreign location.

Q17: How will this affect passengers with connections?

A17: DHS and TSA outlined required security enhancements as part of our commitment to raising the baseline on global aviation security, but the directive provides flexibility for the airlines to implement the measures in alignment with their operations and customer service goals.  Therefore, passengers should check with their airline on specific information regarding their flight.

Q18: Can you provide any examples of recent terrorist plotting against the aviation sector? Please highlight the trend you’re concerned about.

A18: Although the U.S. has instituted robust aviation security measures since 9/11, our information indicates that terrorist groups’ efforts to execute an attack against the aviation sector are intensifying given that aviation attacks provide an opportunity to cause mass casualties and inflict significant economic damage, as well as generate overwhelming media coverage.

We note that disseminated propaganda from various terrorist groups is encouraging attacks on aviation, to include tactics to circumvent aviation security. 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.

Terrorists have historically tried to hide explosives in shoes in 2001, use liquid explosives in 2006, and conceal explosives in printers in 2010 and suicide devices in underwear in 2009 and 2012. Within the last year, we have also seen attacks conducted at airports to include in Brussels and Istanbul.

Q19: How were these countries informed?

A19: U.S. government officials coordinated with their foreign counterparts to inform them of the changing threat. TSA has a formal process for notifying airlines through the EA/SD process. This process was used to notify airlines of the needed changes.

Q20: Will this apply to flights departing to international locations?

A20: 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.

Q21: What are longer-term efforts to raise the level of security globally?

A21: 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 technological advancements that will make flying more secure for everyone.

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Last Published Date: July 25, 2017
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