Video: Airline scare prompts new safety restrictions

  1. Closed captioning of: Airline scare prompts new safety restrictions

    >>> the roads.

    >>> but let's begin this half-hour with new airline security measures being put into place after a nigerian man allegedly tried to blow up a flight as it made its descent to detroit on christmas day. nbc's kerry sanders is at miami international airport with details. kerry, good morning to you.

    >>> well good morning, matt. in an effort to prevent yet one more crack in the system, security at airports is now even more invasive and restrictive. on the ground and in the sky, new security and new confusion.

    >> when we left atlanta we were able to have two carry-ones and partway through the flight , we could only have one.

    >> reporter: new directives, stay seated for the final hour before landing. not even a trip to the bathroom. keep your lap open. not even a pillow or a blanket.

    >> i found out okay, can't each get up to go to the bathroom. i'm thinking, okay, that's interesting.

    >> i thought it was very ridiculous.

    >> reporter: another new restriction on the international flights, the internet and the gps seat-back map systems are now disabled. and on some aircraft, shutting down the system means no tv, no movies.

    >> it's a mess, it's a nightmare.

    >> reporter: domestic, additional layers of security are also in play, varying from airport to airport. everywhere, the goal to find objects like the syringe with explosives that were allegedly sewn into the underwear of the suspected bomber.

    >> you'll see more people being patted down for those types of objects that could easily be hidden in a pantleg or a shirt sleeve, that a metal detector wouldn't find.

    >> reporter: one possible solution, body scans that can see everything.

    >> body scan technology has been controversial to folks that believe their privacy is being violated. basically, it undresses the person. my counter to that would be, if you want to find threat objects, you need to use scanner x-ray.

    >> reporter: this security expert says even before anyone asks if the new security procedures will work, they should first ask why would anyone let the suspect get on the flight to the u.s. when he was on a wash list?

    >> this guy paid cash. he was --

    >> that alone should have been a red signal ?

    >> he would have been on a drug-smuggling list 25 years ago. he would have been profiled, paid cash, one-way ticket, only carry-on luggage. that's exactly what happened before with 9/11. this was a total failure that could have been prevented.

    >> reporter: wayne black points out if you consider the new rules, not being able to get up an hour before the plane lands, unable to go into the overhead -- when you look at all of that and you realize that that is basically an admission by the tsa that they cannot guarantee somebody can't smuggle a bomb on board, he goes, that is very frightening. matt?

    >> kerry sanders in florida for us this morning, thanks very much.

    >>> for more on what to expect at the airports, let's bring in nelu metamad, the features editor for "travel and leisure" magazine. let me start with you, nila . the world that we knew on christmas eve in terms of traveling is no longer the world we're living in.

    >> it is not. in fact people on vacation have been tuned out, not been watching the tv or reading the paper, they're in for a rude awakening when they get to the airport.

    >> one of the things that larry people are talking about, is two possible screenings when you go to an airport. the first is ha we've all become accustomed to. you go through the x-ray machine. you find out if you've got any metals on you. the second one is a physical pat-down. if you were running things at an airport right now, what would trigger that second wave of security in your opinion?

    >> matt, i think that that's, that's going to be coming regardless. you go through the first section and i think that's going to be a natural course of things.

    >> so for anybody, not someone who is acting erratically or who fits a profile, any travelers from now on is probably going to go through not one but those two waves of security ?

    >> i think depending on the threat assessments that are ongoing, i think you'll see a lot more of that. and it will increase dramatically.

    >> all right. nila , let me ask you to lay out some new procedures once we get on the plane and i'll ask larry to comment on the effectiveness or lack of effectiveness. last hour of the flight ?

    >> you can't get up, you can't have blankets or pillows or personal objects like your pda on your lap. and you cannot reach your stuff in the overhead bin and you cannot go to the lavatory.

    >> so, larry , are you to tell me or is somebody going to tell me, i'm thinking about this as a father of a 3-year-old son. my 3-year-old son in the last hour of a trans- atlantic flight has to go to the bathroom. they're going to tell me, i can't get up to take my son to the bathroom?

    >> i think you're going to have a situation, matt, where you'll have to have a crew member accompany you. think back to 9/11, and the measures that were in place. one-half-hour after departure after you took off and a half-hour before you landed, you cannot move at all. i think you'll see a tremendous increase in that and you will have to be escorted. that's the way i see it.

    >> why so much emphasis on the last hour, lary. if i'm a terrorist and i'm on a trans- atlantic flight and i want to bring that plane down, i hate to say this, but i'd probably try to bring it down over the middle of the atlantic so there's no emergency landing .

    >> well, at one time that was the general theory . that if it did go down over the north atlantic , there would be no evidence. but look at the fact that you've got an airplane with 200 to 300 passengers on board. that's a tremendous amount of casualties. but if you bring the plane down over an urban center , you have a lot more casualties, you have a lot more news. i think that's a change.

    >> nila , the idea that the tracking monitors we're all used to seeing where the plane is in its flight , whether it's over the ocean or whatever. they'll be turned off. a lot of the systems are connected to the onboard entertainment system, so you could be on a trans- atlantic flight over the next couple of days with no movies, no entertainment at all.

    >> we've heard that on jetblue they've stopped having movies, xm radio , no tv. on cafe, we were told this morning that you can actually do the map, that feature has been put back.

    >> larry , we like to whine, you know, we like to complain. but i think as someone who has dealt with security for a lot of years, like you have, you think we should view this as just an added insurance policy ?

    >> absolutely. i think we need to be much more proactive. we've been reactive historically. look at the 9/11 situation. we now have circumstances where we've got to be proactive. the richard reed shoe-bombing situation, we're very accustomed to taking our shoes off. the plot in the mid '90s, now we have liquids, creams and gels that are in quantity of no more than three ounces. these are reactionary procedures based upon the event at the time. we've got to be more forward-thinking and we've got to have better communication amongst the intelligence agencies .

    >> so nila , the one piece of advice for people flying this week would be?

    >> get to the airport early. three hours internationally, two hours if you're traveling domestically, the lines will be long.

    >> thank you both, i appreciate your time.

    >> thank you.

    >>> let's get a check of

NBC News and news services
updated 12/26/2009 5:47:06 PM ET 2009-12-26T22:47:06

Extra pat-downs before boarding. No getting up for the last hour of the flight. More bomb-sniffing dogs. Airports worldwide tightened security a day after a passenger tried to light some kind of explosive on a flight into Detroit.

NBC News reports the new steps include:

  • Pat downs of passengers at airport security, concentrating on the upper torso and legs;
  • Physical inspections of all carry-on bags at the gate;
  • Requiring all passengers to be seated for the full hour prior to arrival;
  • Banning the use of blankets and pillows one hour prior to arrival.

The Transportation Security Administration wouldn’t say exactly what it was doing differently on Saturday. It didn’t need to since travelers described the tightened security, especially for international flights bound for the United States.

The extra vigilance came after a man flying from Nigeria to Amsterdam to the U.S. tried to ignite a device just before the plane landed in Detroit on Friday.

Passengers on a flight from New York to Tampa on Saturday morning were told they must remain in their seats and couldn’t have items in their laps, including laptops and pillows.

Passengers on a United Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Washington were not allowed to have anything on their laps during the descent into Dulles, or to open the overhead bins an hour before landing, said Nehmi Klaassen, 32, who made the trip on Saturday.

Klaassen, who lives in Amsterdam, said lines at the airport were “ten times” longer than usual this time.

Long security pat downs
Jennifer Allen encountered tougher security on her way from Amsterdam to Detroit on Saturday. Her Northwest Airlines flight was on the same route disrupted by the attempted attack a day earlier.

Video: Stepping up security “They patted you down really well,” said Allen, 41, an automotive engineer from Shelby Township, Mich. “It wasn’t just a quick rub, it was a slow pat. They went through everything in your bags, went through the pockets in your pants, the pockets of your coat.”

Sarabjit Dhillon, 35, of Sterling Heights, Mich., was returning to Detroit from a visit to India. Even her three young children got a pat-down.

“They had to open each and every item. They didn’t tell us why they were doing it, they just said the United States wanted them to do it, to check everything,” she said.

“The extra measures apply worldwide on all flights to the U.S. as of now and for an indefinite period,” said Judith Sluiter, spokeswoman for the Dutch National Coordinator for Counterterrorism. Security procedures for other flights remained unchanged, she said.

The big U.S. airlines all declined to talk about the new rules.

In a statement, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said travelers should expect additional steps as well. "These measures are designed to be unpredictable, so passengers should not expect to see the same thing everywhere," she said. "Due to the busy holiday travel season, both domestic and international travelers should allot extra time for check-in."

The incident on the flight from Amsterdam is a reminder that securing U.S. airports is only part of the solution, said Elaine Dezenski, who until recently was managing director of the Global Security Initiative at Interpol and also used to work for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

“More and more it’s not about what happens in the U.S. airports, it’s what’s happening outside the U.S. and how the system can or cannot be infiltrated,” she said.

Other airports described
At Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, the airport police dogs, which are trained to detect explosives, were out on Saturday. Airport spokesman Perry Cooper said the extra effort was at the request of the TSA.

Passengers flying to the U.S. from London’s Heathrow said they received text messages informing them they could carry only one piece of hand baggage onto the plane.

Italy’s civil aviation authority, ENAC, said the extra measures were requested by the TSA and will initially remain in place for 72 hours.

Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport is one of Europe’s busiest and transports passengers from Africa and Asia to North America. It has been testing full body scanners for about a year that allow security staff to see the outline of a passenger and potential weapons beneath their clothes, and intend to roll out a more complete program next year, said airport spokeswoman Mirjam Snoerwang.

Passengers in Brussels, where the EU is based, were advised to reach the airport three hours before departure to allow time for a second security check at the boarding gate.

In Sweden, Denmark and Norway, airport operators said they would apply tougher security checks on flights destined for the U.S., but that they did not plan tighter rules for other flights.

Officials in the Mideast and in India said they were maintaining their current procedures, which they said were already high.

Little was different at the airport in Lagos, Nigeria, where the man’s trip originated. Soldiers impassively stared at those passing into the departure terminal Saturday. Others sat and talked among themselves, loaded rifles tossed over their shoulders.

Passengers moved quickly through security, waiting only for immigration officers to examine passports and visas. A battered X-ray machine quickly passed over suitcases and shoes. Federal airport authority spokesman spokesman Akin Olukunle said the airport had no bomb-sniffing dogs but was considering getting some.

NBC's Jay Blackman and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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