Traveling From Abroad Gets More Challenging

December 26th, 2009 at 7:07 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

The Traveling Richters are back on the road again today, flying from Bonaire to Charleston, South Carolina. And what fun we encountered during our journey!

Well, it wasn’t actually that much fun. Thanks to yesterday’s failed attempt by a Nigerian man to trigger some sort of explosive device on a Northwest flight from Amsterdam to Detroit, the Transportation and Safety Administration (TSA) has just instituted a series of new security protocols guaranteed to make air travel, at least from outside the U.S.A. to domestic destinations, an even greater hassle. I don’t have the details yet of the formal changes, but can certainly relate what I have observed during today’s travels.

Heightened security measures were evident even on normally mellow and sleepy Bonaire. First, the amount of scrutiny given to bags going through the x-ray machines was at an all time high – and the screening staff seemed rather stressed, even snapping at Linda when she explained that her metal replacement knee triggered the metal detector. A note from her doctor was demanded (first time ever during over three dozen flights since she had the replacement). A less stressed security agent came to the rescue. Have stressed security staff was previously unheard of on Bonaire.

It took almost an hour to clear security and immigration, due both in part to the greater security procedures and the fact that five flights were all leaving during the same two hour window. None of the flights was particularly full, for which I’m thankful or our wait in line could have easily been a lot longer.

In the departure area, once they announced that we could board we found additional security procedures in place. One was that each carry-on bag needed to be hand-checked. The other is that everyone had to be patted down by hand, even the kids. The pat downs were professional, but quite public, and bordering on almost intimate. A female security officer did all of our pat downs, and Linda commented that compared to the pat downs she gets because of her metal knee joint, these were actually less intrusive.

We were the first ones to get in line to board and it took more than five minutes until we were cleared and could actually head for the plane. Our flight was about one-third full, and it took close to an hour before everyone was similarly screened, which delayed departure by over 20 minutes. I would hate to think how long the new procedure will take for a full flight.

Once on board the plane, we were told that a new TSA requirement had just been received by the captain, and that we would be required to confine ourselves to our seats for the last 60 minutes before arrival in Atlanta (no bathroom runs during that time either), and that during that last hour all personal items would need to remain stowed, and we could not have blankets, pillows, or personal items on our laps. It’s unclear at the time I write this (45 minutes after departure) what this means in terms of being able to read magazines, books, or Kindles or listen to iPods (if the iPod is on your lap). I guess we will find out.

Also not clear at this time is whether extra security screening and bladder-bursting confinement times apply only to international flights or also to domestic flights, or just flights from Dutch territory (since yesterday’s attempt was on a flight from the Netherlands). News reports I can locate via the Internet here while in-flight appear to indicate that this one-hour seating requirement is only for flights originating outside the U.S. though. I wonder who the first person arrested for a now illegal bathroom emergency during that final hour will be. I hope it’s not me.

I also wonder what this will do to WiFi service on planes such as I am using right now. On our four hour flight, the WiFi is only usable for the last two hours coming into the U.S. If we can’t use our personal items like computers during that last hour it makes WiFi a lot more expensive.

In 37 minutes my one hour seat prisonership starts. I’m girding my bladder for it.

I will post more on this new development as I continue to experience it.

The Traveling Richters are back on the road again today, flying from Bonaire to Charleston, South Carolina. And what fun we encountered during our journey!

Well, it wasn’t actually that much fun. Thanks to yesterday’s failed attempt by a Nigerian man to trigger some sort of explosive device on a Northwest flight from Amsterdam to Detroit, the Transportation and Safety Administration (TSA), instituted a series of new security protocols guaranteed to make air travel, at least from outside the U.S.A. to domestic destinations, an even greater hassle. I don’t have the details yet of the formal changes, but can certainly relate what I have observed during today’s travels.

Heightened security measures were evident even on normally mellow and sleepy Bonaire. First, the amount of scrutiny given to bags going through the x-ray machines was at an all time high – and the screening staff seemed rather stressed, even snapping at Linda when she explained that her metal replacement knee triggered the metal detector. A note from her doctor was demanded (first time ever during over three dozen flights since she had the replacement). A less stressed security agent came to the rescue. Have stressed security staff was previously unheard of on Bonaire.

It took almost an hour to clear security and immigration, due both in part to the greater security procedures and the fact that five flights were all leaving during the same two hour window. None of the flights was particularly full, for which I’m thankful or our wait in line could have easily been a lot longer.

In the departure area, once they announced that we could board we found additional security procedures in place. One was that each carry-on bag needed to be hand-checked. The other is that everyone had to be patted down by hand, even the kids. The pat downs were professional, but quite public, and bordering on almost intimate. A female security officer did all of our pat downs, and Linda commented that compared to the pat downs she gets because of her metal knee joint, these were actually less intrusive.

We were the first ones to get in line to board and it took more than five minutes until we were cleared and could actually head for the plane. Our flight was about one-third full, and it took close to an hour before everyone was similarly screened, which delayed departure by over 20 minutes. I would hate to think how long the new procedure will take for a full flight.

Once on board the plane, we were told that a new TSA requirement had just been received by the captain, and that we would be required to confine ourselves to our seats for the last 60 minutes before arrival in Atlanta (no bathroom runs during that time either), and that during that last hour all personal items would need to remain stowed, and we could not have blankets, pillows, or personal items on our laps. It’s unclear at the time I write this (45 minutes after departure) what this means in terms of being able to read magazines, books, or Kindles. I guess we will find out.

Also not clear at this time is whether extra security screening and bladder-bursting confinement times apply only to international flights or also to domestic flights, or just flights from Dutch territory (since yesterday’s attempt was on a flight from the Netherlands).

I will post more on this new development as I continue to experience it.

 

5 Responses to “Traveling From Abroad Gets More Challenging”

  1. Jake Richter Says:

    I just came across a number of news stories that imply the TSA has ordered that no electronics be used in-flight on U.S.-bound International flights. That would be crazy, but I can say that request has not been made on my current Delta flight from Bonaire to Atlanta. We all have our iPods, Nintendo DSes, etc.

  2. Glen Reem Says:

    Hi, Jake,

    Five flights at the same time??!! La Guardia or National come to Bonaire?? What flights were they?

    Have a good trip!

  3. Jake Richter Says:

    Glen,

    The five flights were: KLM, DAE, Insel Air (via Curacao to Miami), ArkeFly, and Delta.

    Regarding the security precautions, interestingly, the crew of our flight interpreted the no personal objects on your lap rule to not apply to having the seat tray out. Weird.

    And in going through security after clearing immigration and customs in Atlanta, the only thing different was that the male security staffer at the metal detector patted down my arms and torso, presumably because I had a sweater on.

  4. Alan Says:

    Have fun at RW — and perhaps we’ll see you in February.

  5. Jake Richter Says:

    RW at New Year’s was definitely different from our past ones. I enjoyed myself more than Linda and the kids. We won’t be at RW in February. We’ll be in the Antarctic (brr 🙂 ). May Labor Day in Aspen. We’ll see. Happy New Year to you and the family!