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Monday, January 4, 2010

Flight 253, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, The New TSA Travel Rules, And What They Mean to You

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By Morgan Kelps

In the last few days, we have learned a considerable amount about the alleged attack on Northwest Airlines flight 253 by the now infamous Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. What was initially believed to be little more than a lengthy visit to the airplane lavatory has now been revealed to be a major threat to the airline security and questionable screening tactics. As a result of the apparent security gaps, the TSA immediately announced severe changes to our in-flight experience.

According to the British Airways and Air Canada websites, new TSA rules for most international flights bound for the US stipulate:

1) Limit of one small carry-on item (purse, diaper bag or laptop bag)

A wider, more far-reaching rule said to also affect domestic flights stipulates:

2) Limitation of on-board activities by customers and crew in U.S. airspace that may adversely impact on-board service. Among other things, during the final hour of flight customers must remain seated, will not be allowed to access carry-on baggage, or have personal belongings or other items on their laps.

In addition to these two rules, the larger debate taking place is around the utilization of more hands-on security searches(e.g. getting padded down) and of new full body scanning technology that digitally renders passengers and their belongings in an X-Ray type image.

For both business and pleasure travelers, these new rules will have a significant impact on air travel. You should take the following steps to help ensure an efficient and enjoyable trip:

1) Pack all your essentials in your smaller carry-on bag (medications, valuables, electronics)
2) Check your airport for security wait times and delays well in advance of your departure
3) Check your attitude at the door: Being offensive or loud with TSA agents will slow your screening and may cause you to miss your flight
4) Use the lavatory prior to boarding your flight and again in the middle of your flight; don't wait until the end
5) Get an iPod or small music player that will fit in your pocket to help pass time during your last hour of flight

While these changes in airline policy represent a significant inconvenience to consumers and might be phased out in the near future, for now they exist to protect you and your fellow travelers. By understanding the rules and being prepared, you can make the most of your air travel experience.

Keep up on airline security and the TSA: http://www.businessinsider.com/airline-industry.

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