New carry-on luggage limits and screening measures after Northwest Airlines terrorist incident

By | December 26th, 2009

The thwarted terrorist bombing of Northwest Airlines flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit yesterday has triggered a series of new security measures by the U.S. government. Here’s what’s being said by the Transportation Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security.

Details remain sketchy for now. “Passengers may notice additional screening measures put into place to ensure the safety of the traveling public on domestic and international flights,” according to the TSA.

What, exactly, are “additional screening measures”?

The answer isn’t immediately clear. I’ve asked TSA for a response. If anyone is flying today, please send me an email or leave a comment here.

According to British Airways, carry-on luggage will be limited on flights to the States.

Please be aware that due to these revised security arrangements for all customers departing on a flight from Heathrow or Gatwick to the US only one item of hand luggage is allowed. They are advised to check-in as normal.

Customers travelling to other destinations outside the United States are not affected.

Air Canada’s site says TSA has imposed several new rules on U.S.-bound flights that would,

limit 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.


At this point, many media outlets are reporting this will be required of all flights, regardless of their point of origin. (See update #2 for more on that.)

Here’s what Northwest’s parent company, Delta Air Lines, had to say about the attempted bombing earlier this morning:

Upon approach to Detroit, a passenger caused a disturbance onboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253. The passenger was subdued immediately and the crew requested that law enforcement meet the flight upon arrival. The flight, operated by Northwest using an Airbus 330-300 aircraft with 278 passengers onboard, landed safely. The passenger was taken into custody and questioned by law enforcement authorities. Delta is cooperating fully with authorities and additional questions should be directed to law enforcement officials who are leading the investigation.

If there’s anyone out there with more information about TSA’s new security measures (beyond the carry-on restrictions) please let me know.

In the meantime, if you’re flying today, give yourself a little extra time for screening. I might leave a half-hour earlier than you planned — just to safe.

Update #1 (9 a.m.): A Northwest Airlines flight attendant who just went through security this morning clarifies: “I’m recommending three hours for domestic flights, four hours for international flights.”

If you’re traveling today, good luck.

Update #2 (5:30 p.m.): I’ve been monitoring this situation all day. TSA refuses to commit to any specific screening measures, contrary to some published reports. From its site:

Passengers flying from international locations to U.S. destinations may notice additional security measures in place. These measures are designed to be unpredictable, so passengers should not expect to see the same thing everywhere. Due to the busy holiday travel season, both domestic and international travelers should allot extra time for check-in.