The US Transportation Security Administration has announced tighter checking for flights from specific countries deemed higher terrorist risks, but when it comes to flights from anywhere else in the world, it's still the case that nothing is predictable.
Picture by bosconet
I flew from Sydney to Los Angeles and then to Las Vegas (for CES) over the weekend, so I was curious to see how many of the rumoured restrictions — such as not using electronic equipment, being forced to sit down for the last hour of the flight, or being searched more heavily than usual — would apply. The answer? Not much had altered.
The only really visible change was that just before boarding the flight, every passenger was subjected to a manual hand luggage search and pat-down, which included opening up my laptop to prove it was a functioning device. This isn't something I've had happen when flying to the US for a while, but it has happened before — I can't chalk it up as a specifically new experience resulting from concerns following the attempted Detroit-bound plane attack.
Other than that, it was pretty much all business as usual. On-board entertainment didn't shut down until we begun our descent, and other than the customary grudging announcement that passengers shouldn't congregate near toilets, we were free to move around the cabin. There was a brief delay when we landed to allow security staff to board, but crew said that was because two passengers had been involved in a brawl. Within LAX, the screening process was no different, and there were no changes on the flight to Vegas either
The lesson from this is not that nothing will ever happen — there are plenty of credible accounts of much more onerous enforcement — but that there's no point in becoming overly paranoid. Allowing extra time for clearing security remains sensible, of course. For useful US travel tips that apply whatever security rules are being enforced, check out our five traps to avoid when travelling to the USA.