The New, Terrifying, No-Electronics US Flight Security Rules

Illustration for article titled The New, Terrifying, No-Electronics US Flight Security Rules

That failed terrorist attack yesterday might make international flights a whole lot less enjoyable. Passengers are reporting that new restrictions are in place, and their severity varies flight-to-flight. Among the reports, a rumor: No electronics. Updated: Gadgets OK, but restricted!

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Illustration for article titled The New, Terrifying, No-Electronics US Flight Security Rules

Again, these are isolated incidents, and there's still no official word from TSA. But in certain instances, some passengers are reporting that electronics usage on inbound U.S. flights is restricted. We'll let you know if an official announcement comes.

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The New York Times is reporting that no one will be able to move from their seats during the last hour of flight. That means no bathroom breaks, no accessing carry-on luggage, nothing. When that plane starts descending, you're planted.

Multiple sources, among them Xeni Jardin of Boing Boing, have also been told that no electronics are allowed on international flights. None. So you can't even play video games to distract yourself from how badly you have to pee.

From what we can tell, this is largely restricted to inbound international flights. TSA hasn't made any announcements yet either, so hopefully this is either a temporary measure, or the restrictions will be less severe once the official policy becomes clearer.

So much for using those free in-flight Wi-Fi codes we told you about. If you're flying today, tell us what you hear. [Business Insider, New York Times, @xenijardin]

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Image via Bekathwia

Update: According to @charleneli, here's the situation:

New flight rules - Body search, no electronics apply only to int'l flights to US. Just landed in ORD from Canada, missed connection

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Update 2: The TSA also released this statement, which seems to confirm that electronics usage policies will be on a case-by-case basis (emphasis added):

"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."

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Update 3: We've been hearing reports from readers about their experiences under the new flight regulations. The good news is, most of you aren't having problems using your gear. The bad news is there's still no official word from TSA, so your milage may vary.

Reader Mikkel had this to say:

I arrived in to LAX last night on a British Airways flight. The only time there were restrictions on electronics were (as always) right after takeoff but now also during the last hour of the flight. Other than that, things were pretty normal. What surprised me, was that the airline had disabled the on-board map so we couldn't see where we were. They told us this was by order of the US government.

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I got another email from reader Nic saying the same thing about the in-flight map. Here's a third from commenter Beatledud's observations, and his opinion on why the whole "stay seated an hour before landing rule" defeats the purpose of turning off the location tracker:

In the flight most things were normal. We were allowed to use gadgets but they wouldn't tell us how long it would take to get to DC. And while the moving GPS map on my video screen was disabled, the ETA time stamp on how much was left on the journey worked just fine, and it ended up accurate. DUMB.

Oh, and the having to buckle up and stay seated the last hour of the flight? First this seemed counterproductive since they were ATTEMPTING to prevent passengers from knowing when they were almost landing. Giving an hour heads up cancels that out. And they gave us 30 minutes to go to our bags and the bathroom before the hour lock down. And oh, what a lock down it was, I must have seen 30 people still doing whatever 20 minutes in and half a dozen people just get up anyways for the final 40 minutes to use the bathroom, go to their bags, whatever, and that was just where I was sitting.

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The pre-boarding chain of events in Beatledud's story featured beefed-up security measures, but it sounds like everything was relatively normal onboard. He's not the only one to have an uneventful flight. Gynranger left this story of his normal sounding domestic travels in the comments:

I few yesterday, just a domestic flight, from New York, NY to Savanna, GA. We were allowed to use electronics but during take off until cruising alt and about 30 minutes before landing they made us shut everything off, including iPods or computers and other devices even those that didnt broadcast.

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There have been some cases where in-flight restrictions were more extreme than usual, like this one from reader Arturo:

We flew from Eugene, OR to San Francisco today: they would not even let us read paperback books that we had brought with us. According to them, the new TSA directive is that in the last hour of flight, we are not allowed to leave our seats, nor use or have anything from our carry-on luggage or personal items.

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This seems to be the main restriction, that you can't have anything on your lap during the last hour of flight. That's just the word from the airlines though. As of this writing, TSA still hasn't announced their new guidelines to the public. This is the latest statement up on their page:

Q: What additional security measures are being taken for international flights to U.S. destinations?
A: TSA issued a directive for additional security measures to be implemented for last point of departure international flights to the United States. Passengers flying into the United States from abroad can expect to see additional security measures at international airports such as increased gate screening including pat-downs and bag searches. During flight, passengers will be asked to follow flight crew instructions, such as stowing personal items, turning off electronic equipment and remaining seated during certain portions of the flight.

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So that's what we've been hearing. Again, there hasn't been an official word from TSA. Certain airlines have said that electronics are OK for now, and judging from your stories that seems to be the case. We'll keep an eye on the situation, and we'll try to break the news easy if it turns out you won't be jamming to Miley during the flight home. [TSA, Thanks to everyone who wrote in with their stories]

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Update 4:

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DISCUSSION

Unfortunately, all of the measures being taken are not going to stop terrorists at all.

Let's take the changes:

1) Body cavity search? Defeated by shoving shit up your ass or swallowing stuff and bringing it back up during the flight.

2) No electronics? You don't need electronics to detonate a bomb or brandish a knife.

3) No getting up in the last hour? Detonate the bomb earlier then... same shock and terrorism factor.

4) No blankets? It doesn't take a blanket to take hostages or hijack a plane. These attacks FAIL and they still make global news and effect policy change. If they didn't set their goals so high and just stabbed a few passengers while shouting "allahu akhbar", it would have the same effect - but for some reason it looks like radicals like explosives.

So what are people TRYING to take out of this?

1) More bullshit in airports. As if there wasn't enough already. TSA, an unaccountable government entity, gets even more power, slowing down airport lines even more and causing more loss of productivity as people wait away their days in security lines. And for what? If you're going to go overboard, do it the Israeli way - El Al has had the best security in the business for DECADES and hasn't had a hijacker or terrorist onboard in forever now - and how many radicals hate Israel again?

2) Renew the Patriot Act. It was unconstitutional - enough said.

3) All this bullshit comes out of Yemen, so we should do something about Yemen. Uhhhh..... no. Yemen is not the source of the problem - they may be incompetent but they don't finance terror. But, of course, the neocons would like to go and invade there like we invaded Iraq and Afghanistan in the name of the war on terror.

The sad thing is, the "heroes" who tackled the Nigerian guy didn't even know he was a terrorist at first. If you smell and see smoke your first instinct is "Oh my god there's a fire!" not "Oh my god there's a terrorist!" (and to anyone who says otherwise, enjoy the panic you cause when your laptop, iPod, or cell phone battery explodes on board an aircraft). They rushed to the Nigerian in an attempt to put out a fire - which is why they could be level headed about it. It wasn't until they saw a syringe that their brains would process that it's a terror attack. Otherwise, you would have a plane full of hostages right now, because fear and terror are not emotions that cause you to strike back.

So what should we do? Realize that this guy was well-off, living in a $6 million apartment in London and going to college - that terrorism is not the result of "oppression" or "racism" or "poverty" but the result of radical Islam's hatred of the West. This is a major problem even in Europe now - I would recommend you read "Reflections on the Revolution in Europe" by Christopher Caldwell, which is about the demographic change in Europe right now as Europe becomes more and more Muslim and what it's doing politically, ranging from the race riots in France in the summer of 2005 to stuff like how European schools are starting to no longer serve pork in their cafeterias. This is not a problem that can be solved by simply invading a country, because radical Islam knows no borders.