Air New Zealand is phasing in extra screening for passengers flying to the United States as part of new security measures the US is demanding from airlines around the world.
All flights to the US are subject to new security screening procedures before takeoff, including American citizens and foreigners possibly facing security interviews from airline employees, the US government said yesterday.
An Air New Zealand spokeswoman said the extra checks had been introduced in tranches over several months and more would be introduced next year.
New measures introduced in July included an additional passport and boarding pass check and random passenger screening for US-bound customers before they are able to enter the boarding gate area.
''We have been advising customers travelling to the US to arrive at the airport earlier than they normally would [three hours before departure is recommended] to allow extra time for this additional screening,'' the spokeswoman said.
''A second tranche of changes for customers will come into effect for us in late April next year. Other security measures are being introduced in the interim but most customers are unlikely to notice any change,'' she said.
Air New Zealand and a number of other airlines globally were granted an extension beyond 120 days to implement the last of the customer-facing additional security measures.
About 2100 flights from around the world enter the US on any given day. Yesterday's directive was far broader than an earlier Trump administration ban on laptops in the cabins of some airliners, which only targeted 10 Mideast cities and their airlines.
Confusion greeted the new rules among other airlines.
Five global long-haul carriers said they would begin the new security interviews today, but each offered different descriptions of how they would take place, ranging from a form travellers would have to fill out to being verbally quizzed by an airline employee. Other carriers insisted their operations remained the same.
"The security measures affect all individuals, international passengers and US citizens, travelling to the United States from a last point of departure international location," said Lisa Farbstein, a spokeswoman for the US Transportation Security Administration. "These new measures will impact all flights from airports that serve as last points of departure to the United States."
The new rules come at the end of a 120-day window for new US safety regulations to be implemented following the lifting of the laptop ban imposed on some Mideast airlines.
They include "heightened screening of personal electronic devices" and stricter security procedures around planes and in airport terminals, Farbstein said. She did not elaborate.
Details of the new rules were first revealed by Dubai-based Emirates, which operates the world's busiest airport for international travel.
Emirates said it would begin carrying out "pre-screening interviews" at its check-in counters for passengers out of Dubai and at boarding gates for transit and transfer fliers. It urged those flying through Dubai International Airport to allow extra time for flight check-in and boarding.
"These measures will work with the current additional screening measures conducted at the boarding gate," it said.
Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific Airways said on its website that it had suspended self-drop baggage services and that passengers heading to the US "will be subject to a short security interview" when checking their luggage. Those without bags would have a similar interview at their gates.
Air France said it would begin the new security interviews today at Paris Orly Airport and on November 2, at Charles de Gaulle Airport. It said the extra screening would take the form of a questionnaire handed to all passengers.
EgyptAir said the new measures include more detailed searches of passengers and their luggage as well as interviews. It said the procedure would extend to unauthorised agricultural or veterinary products.
Germany's Lufthansa Group said that "in addition to the controls of electronic devices already introduced, travellers to the USA might now also face short interviews at check-in, at document check or [at their] gate". Lufthansa Group includes Germany's largest carrier, Lufthansa, as well as Austrian Airlines, Swiss, Eurowings and several other airlines.
Royal Jordanian, based in Amman, said it would introduce the new procedures in mid-January. Spokesman Basel Kilani said it would take the form of a questionnaire given to passengers before check-in. He said he didn't know what kind of questions would be asked.
US carriers also will be affected by the new rules. Delta said it was telling passengers traveling to the US to arrive at the airport at least three hours before their flight and allow extra time to get through security. United declined to comment, and American did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The International Air Transport Association, which represents 275 airlines, also did not immediately respond to a request for comment. However, Vaughn Jennings of the trade group Airlines for America said that although the new rules include "complex security measures", US officials have been flexible.
"The safety and security of passengers and crew is the highest priority for US airlines and we remain committed to ensuring the highest levels of security are in place throughout the industry," Jennings said.
However, not all were convinced of the new measures' effectiveness.
"The part of the new measures I don't like is that airline personnel are being put back into the security screening process," said Jeffrey Price, an aviation-security expert at Metropolitan State University of Denver. "Airline ticket agents aren't always the best at conducting security measures."
This is just the latest decision by President Donald Trump's administration affecting global travel.
In March, US officials introduced the laptop ban in the cabins of some Mideast airlines over concerns Islamic State fighters and other extremists could hide bombs in them. The ban was lifted after those airlines began using devices like CT scanners to examine electronics before passengers boarded planes heading to the US. Some also increasingly swab passengers' hands to check for explosive residue.
The laptop ban as well as travel bans affecting predominantly Muslim countries have hurt Mideast airlines. Emirates, the region's biggest, said it slashed 20 per cent of its flights to the US in the wake of the restrictions.