With new security measures rolling out on flights to the United States, and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) floating the potential of a new laptop ban, Travel Agent reached out to travel advisors and industry officials on what travelers can expect at the airport.
“Be conservative in arriving to the airport for a flight back to the U.S., and when booking a connecting flight back to the U.S., pad a little more time in that connection,” says Julie Michaels, a travel advisor with Century Travel, a Worldview Tvl Company, in Atlanta, GA. “Typically, the standard guideline is to arrive two hours prior to departure, but leave yourself three hours so you can pass through any additional security measures stress-free. Better to wait at the airport and have time for an extra cocktail (if that suits you,) then be stressed about missing your flight home. If you’re already booked on a tight connection, talk to your travel advisor about adding a VIP airport service, which can oftentimes help breeze you through checkpoints.”
“Travelers should expect significant delays for all trips returning to the United States,” agrees Marc Casto, president and CEO of Casto Travel. “As such, they should expect to be at the airport three hours prior to departure.”
Casto says that travelers planning to check in bags should arrive even earlier as the airport, particularly as some international carriers are planning on eliminating self-drop baggage service. That means even longer lines at the check-in gate.
“Most carriers are expected to use a written form to meet compliance, while a number will require personal interviews,” Casto says. “It is unclear at this time what questions will be asked in either format. If selected for a personal interview, answer all questions clearly, accurately, and with minimal exposition.”
Casto warns that he’s heard initial reports from clients that indicate an increase in the number of laptops seized for further analysis by security officials. Because of that, travelers shouldn’t store mission critical or confidential documents on their travel laptops.
In fact, Casto recommends avoiding traveling with a laptop on international trips altogether. “Through a combination of cloud services and use of local loaner computers it is possible to leave the laptop at home,” he says.
A spokesperson for the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) tells Travel Agent that the organization is monitoring the situation closely in order to assist its members and clients in avoiding travel disruption.
“We call on the Administration to expeditiously set clear rules of the road, and to communicate those changes to the traveling public in conjunction with the airlines, such that disruption is kept to a minimum and that leisure and business travelers maintain confidence in an industry vital to our nation’s economy,” says ASTA. “A good rule of thumb is to check with the relevant carrier on policy changes and, when in doubt, arrive at the airport early.”
The new airport security measures rolled out Thursday as a replacement for this summer’s ban on laptops and other large electronic devices in airplane cabins. In exchange for ending the ban, carriers including Air France, Cathay Pacific, EgyptAir, Emirates and Lufthansa, had 120 days to implement new security measures that reportedly involve enhanced screenings and personal interviews. Royal Jordanian said it had received permission from U.S. authorities to delay implementing the new measures until January.
The FAA reportedly proposed another, separate laptop ban earlier this week, this time applying to large electronics in checked luggage. That ban, which is being discussed at the meeting of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in Montreal, is designed to combat the risk of fire posed by the lithium-ion batteries that power large electronic devices.