Most air travelers grudgingly accept the mounting inconveniences of the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA), from taking off our shoes to highly restricted possession of liquids in a carry-on, conceding that the agency is merely trying to keep Americans and visitors safe from the ongoing threat of terrorism.
Now, the TSA will add further complications to boarding an airplane — this time, in another country.
Yesterday, the TSA announced that in order to travel to the U.S. from select airports in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, the airport of departure must check all electronic devices, including mobile phones and tablets. To submit your belongings for the required screenings, all battery-powered devices intended for carry-on must be operational.
What does this mean for air travelers? If you are unable to power on your device, you will not be permitted to board the aircraft or you will be forced to leave your electronics behind. This means that you’ll no longer be able to pass through security with the hopes of charging your phone at the gate. It also means you’ll have to shove your uncharged iPad in your checked bag. In short, you’ll have to ensure that all of the devices you plan to bring with you on the plane are completely charged.
Delta Airlines is also encouraging all passengers traveling internationally to allow an additional 30 to 45 minutes at the airport to account for these new screening requirements. Think about how long security lines are already. Now think about how long they’ll be with every person being forced to power on all their devices and allow that country’s security agent to inspect them. Couple that with the fact that the announcement was made over a holiday weekend, and most folks are likely unaware of the change, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for a headache at the airport.
Nearly 13 years after 9/11, why the hassle? Politico explains:
News reports have suggested the Department of Homeland Security is increasingly worried that terrorists may use Syria as a base to attack U.S.-bound flights, and the Transportation Security Administration’s decision indicates the agency fears terrorists could turn a phone or tablet into an undetectable bomb.
“As the traveling public knows, all electronic devices are screened by security officers,” the TSA said Sunday. “During the security examination, officers may also ask that owners power up some devices, including cell phones. Powerless devices will not be permitted onboard the aircraft.”
The agency said it would continue to adjust its security measures to ensure that travelers are “guaranteed the highest levels of aviation security conducted as conveniently as possible.”
The rule means passengers traveling to the U.S. from abroad should charge their tablets and phones before arriving at the airport, or they could be forced to abandon their devices before boarding.
Appearing on NBC’s “Meet The Press” on Sunday before the TSA’s announcement, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said the administration was trying to balance customer convenience and security.
“I believe that we have taken the appropriate measures to deal with the existing situation and not unnecessarily burden the traveling public,” he said, adding: “There remains a terrorist threat.”
Johnson said he was worried about the security threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, a Sunni insurgency that now effectively controls much of Iraq and Syria.
The move also comes as the TSA tries to increase flexibility for travelers. It has aggressively expanded its PreCheck program, which allows some travelers to keep their shoes on and their laptops in their bags while going through security screening.