Airline security confusion

A lack of coherent information in the aftermath of the attempted bombing of a Northwestern Airlines flight has left passengers confused.

Extended screening and security measures were implemented for international flights into the United States following the Christmas Day incident on Flight 253, where Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempted to detonate an explosive device concealed about his person.

Immediate security measures introduced included more comprehensive pat-downs, hand-luggage searches, increased stowing of personal items and turning off electronic equipment. Passengers were also told to remain in their seats for an hour before their flight into the US landed.

Individual airlines responded to the situation in various ways, including checking in all carry-on luggage and prohibiting holding blankets and coats on laps prior to landing.


Cayman Airports Authority said in a statement that additional measures had meant that passengers travelling on flights from Owen Roberts International Airport to the US would need to present themselves at check-in desks a minimum of three hours before flight departure time.

Weekend travellers to Miami from Grand Cayman were told to use the bathroom prior to boarding the 90-minute flight. At airport security, following passengers clearing the usual magnetometer check, a second security phase was undertaken, which necessitated the second removal of shoes. All carry-on luggage was also searched.

Robert Scotland, senior manager of security for Cayman Islands Airports Authority, informed the Caymanian Compass of the CIAA’s official position on the current situation.

‘Extension of current airline security measures is subject to continuous review by US TSA [Transportation Security Administration] and subsequent directive to airlines operating into the USA,’ he said.

Mr. Scotland referred the Compass to the TSA website for updates on security measures. However, there was no information on the site that discussed any new bathroom regulations or the secondary removal of shoes in the security checks at Grand Cayman or elsewhere.


USA Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, in a statement, said that passengers were being asked to be flexible about their expectations.

‘Passengers flying from international locations to US destinations may notice additional security measures in place. These measures are designed to be unpredictable, so passengers should not expect to see the same thing everywhere,’ she said.

The site described these measures as ‘a layered approach to security that allows [the TSA] to surge resources as needed on a daily basis.’

The Transportation Services Association said that it will ‘continuously review these measures to ensure the highest levels of security.’