Kate Simon: Passengers face tighter controls and longer check-ins

Related Topics

The fear on the faces of passengers disembarking last Friday's Delta-Northwest flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit will have touched anyone due to board a plane in the near future. For this latest attempt to bring down an airliner will conjure up those terrifying thoughts that most of us had put to the back of our minds.

The rigorous checks at airport security implemented since the 11 September attacks – removing shoes, bagging up liquids – once added a frisson of fear but have become a mere irritation. Yet, Friday's incident revealed how important those controls are and continue to be – and why we'll probably have to get used to our privacy being invaded.

Early reports suggest that the suspected bomber sustained serious burns, indicating that the explosives were concealed close to his body. Leading security experts are speculating about whether al-Qa'ida – attributed with inspiring the plot – is experimenting with new techniques to evade detection. Consequently, airport security is under scrutiny again, which may mean we'll see the swifter introduction of smarter methods – or perhaps just more sniffer dogs.

With American airports now on high alert, could this spell the return of the hostile "welcome" for foreign visitors at their border controls? Certainly, the Americans will be vigorously enforcing their latest security enhancement, Esta (Electronic System for Travel Authorisation), which is due to be fully implemented on 20 January. Most of us who fly to the US enter under the Visa Waiver Program and are now required to complete this online application no later than 72 hours ahead of travel. Forget to fill it in and you won't be allowed on the plane.

But will Friday's incident result in British travellers staying at home? Travel from Britain to the US slumped after the 11 September attacks. Yet, Sean Tipton of Abta, the travel industry organisation, maintains that this was due to the high-profile nature of the threat. "On past experience, such incidents very rarely stop the UK market travelling," he said. "People tend to be phlegmatic about terrorism threats. We've had terrorism as a reality for 40 years and people take the view that it is a fact of life." Mr Tipton confirmed that, as yet, Abta hadn't heard from its members about any cancellations as a direct consequence of Friday's incident.

The Department of Transport has ordered all British airport operators to tighten controls on flights to the US, and passengers bound there are already being warned to allow more time to check in.

Nightmares such as Friday's incident are rare in relation to the number of flights crossing the Atlantic each day; and air travel is by far the safest form of transport. Such truisms might offer little solace to the passengers of flight 253, but they may provide the rest of us with a sense of perspective.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Yvette Cooper campaigning in London at the launch of Labour’s women’s manifesto  

I want the Labour Party to lead a revolution in family support

Yvette Cooper
Liz Kendall  

Labour leadership contest: 'Moderniser' is just a vague and overused label

Steve Richards
Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine