Increased airport security: the new “normal”

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Increased security checks leading to long queues and check-in times of up to four hours in some cases is the new “normal” in air travel, and it is not expected to change any time soon.

Rule changes demanding more stringent checks were implemented in all Schengen airports after terrorist attacks in Brussels and Paris, and more recently Australian airports following a foiled terror plot.

At Schengen airports specifically, the new measures mean that the details of passengers from non-Schengen countries are run through databases to alert authorities if they are known to pose a threat.

Ultimately, these increased passport checks, means that border security staff now have to swipe each passport through a reader, taking up to two minutes per traveller ultimately leading to delays,” explains Ryan Potgieter, Brand Leader Flight Centre Business Travel.

“With these tightened security measures we are warning our clients to allow for extra time for their check-in procedures and rather arrive at the airport early no matter where you are travelling to or from.,” says Potgieter.

Despite the frustrations experienced by travellers, the European Commission has defended the changes, saying that more checks can lead to more delays and that is the price of security and passenger safety.

According to EU spokesperson, Mina Andreeva, all EU member states have opted for these rules. “We cannot have on the one hand, a joint request from member states to have more checks and controls to increase security, and at the same time have complaints about longer waiting periods.”

The changes do not only affect passport control, but also what travellers pack and carry with them when they travel.

As is the case currently at Australian airports, travellers have been forewarned to carry less luggage with them as they could be subject to greater security screening.

Also, in the US, travellers flying to any airport in the country from nearly 300 international airports, including South African and Canada, are now subject to increased security measures that include stricter screening for electronic devices larger than cellphones. This is the knock-on effect from the electronics ban that was recently lifted.

“These regulations could include selecting travellers at random asking them to present larger electronic devices for inspection and prove that they can be powered on, ultimately leading to longer security checks at airports,” explains Potgieter.

According to Marieke Tucker, General Manager Flight Centre Travel Group Retail Brands, it is not only travellers travelling internationally that should be prepared for changes in security. On the domestic front, in the wake of a surge of crime around OR Tambo International Airport, Police Minister Fikile Mbalula announced that he would be stepping up security in the vicinity.

“Perhaps one of the most critical changes to note is the changes to check-in times. Kulula announced that from 31 July, the airline will close check-in 45 minutes prior to departure as opposed to the previous 30 minutes prior to departure,” says Tucker.

This falls in line with check-in changes made to British Airways’ local flights last year and other local airlines are expected to likely follow suit.

Tucker suggests leisure travellers keep in contact with their travel agent to ascertain what check-in rules apply, whether they are travelling locally or internationally.

Helpful tips to make your way through airport security

  • Double check the required check-in time with your airline, but also factor the existing longer queuing times into your travel plans.
  • Allow for extra time to travel to your airport of departure
  • Be sure to pack your carry-on bag with only the essential items
  • Try to have electronic devices removed from their bags, ready to be screened at security points
  • Check for delays with your airline

Contact your FCBT Account Manager if you have any questions about the enhanced security at airports.

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