For Airline Passengers, Pat-Downs, Searches and Restroom Monitors
(NY TIMES) As Detroit’s airport was rattled on Sunday by a second frightening incident in three days, passengers at airports in the United States and around the world encountered stiff layers of extra security, with international travelers undergoing newly required bag inspections, body searches and questioning at security checkpoints and before they boarded planes.
At the Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport here, officials detained a passenger who caused a disruption aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253 from Amsterdam, the same flight involved in a terrorism attempt on Friday, when a Nigerian man caused a fire by injecting chemicals into a device taped to his leg.
Pilots on Sunday declared an emergency after a second man, also a Nigerian, spent an unusually long time in an airplane restroom, said a Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman, Sara Kuban.
In a similar scene to the one Friday, the plane was taken to a remote corner of the airport, far from the terminals, where it was surrounded by emergency vehicles. All of the baggage was removed from the plane, lined up on the tarmac and searched by explosive-sniffing dogs.
The passenger, whose name was not made public, “was removed from the flight and interviewed” by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“Indications at this time are that the individual’s behavior is due to legitimate illness,” Ms. Kuban said, “and no other suspicious behavior or materials have been found.”
The incident came amid security measures that were begun by the Transportation Security Administration in response to Friday’s terrorism attempt.
The T.S.A. issued an update on its Web site Sunday that said passengers would be subject to greater security, but its information was not as detailed as the memorandums sent by the agency to airlines this weekend. The airlines said the new T.S.A. measures required an additional round of searches, including body pat-downs at airport gates overseas.
International travelers were also told that they could not leave their seats for the last hour of a flight, during which time they also could not use a pillow or blanket. They were also limited to one piece of carry-on baggage, including a purse or briefcase, and that piece had to be stowed in an overhead compartment for the last hour of a flight.
Airlines were ordered to turn off in-flight entertainment systems with maps showing a plane’s location, and pilots and flight crews were told not to make comments about cities or landmarks below the flight path.
There also were unspecified measures at airports in the United States, where lines at screening machines grew long. At the Detroit airport, officers in bright blue vests marked “Police” walked through the check-in lobby.
Jodi Syens, of Holland, Mich., her husband, Marvin, and daughter Rachel were aboard a flight from London that arrived in Detroit several hours behind schedule Sunday. The Syens, who had arrived at Heathrow Airport three-and-a-half hours before their flight, said passengers were taken by their aircraft rows up to the gate, where carry-on bags were thoroughly checked and the travelers were patted down.
“It was long, but we were appreciative,” Mrs. Syens said.
Tightened security at Narita International Airport in Tokyo came as a surprise to Wen-Lung Huang, of Ann Arbor, Mich., who traveled from Taipei with his wife, Linda, and infant daughter, Catherine. The Huangs, who had two carts loaded with baggage, had to check Catherine’s car seat and portable stroller. Japanese airport officials wrapped each in plastic and heavy tape.
Mr. Huang was skeptical of the new measures, saying, “I don’t know that storing everything and not going to the lavatory for the last hour is going to help.”
The one-bag limit proved a headache for Nicole Williams, a Canadian who lives in Manhattan and was headed home Sunday from Ottawa. She was busily stuffing a BlackBerry and other valuables from her purse into a carry-on bag that also held her Boston terrier.
Ms. Williams, who was flying to La Guardia Airport, said that because Air Canada had charged her extra to take her dog in the cabin, she had mistakenly thought that the dog’s bag was not covered by the new carry-on restrictions.
There was a good deal of confusion among international passengers interviewed on arrival at several American airports Sunday, with many saying they had been unaware of Friday’s terrorism attempt and had not been told of the new security measures until they were actually confronted with them.
Henry Chen, 48, a businessman who lives in San Francisco, said he was shocked to have a female flight attendant barge in on him in the restroom while he was washing his face during a flight from Seoul. “It was kind of weird, to have a lady try to get in,” he said. “She said that they had to watch people being in the restroom too long.”
Joel Barnes and Bryan Duncan, both 27, were sitting in a Starbucksat Los Angeles International Airport, after a 13-hour flight from Brisbane, Australia. They were awaiting the arrival of a friend who had sent them a text message to alert them that his flight from Vancouver had been delayed for two hours because of heightened security measures at the airport there.
The men said their armpits and shoes had been searched before they boarded their flight, and Mr. Barnes said, “They rubbed their hands on the soles of our feet.”
They also recounted how an hour before landing an announcement had been made that no one could get up for the remainder of the flight.
“It was kind of funny,” Mr. Barnes said, “because the previous announcement had been about the danger of deep-vein thrombosis or strombosis or whatever you get from sitting for too long. We laughed.”
Priya Prasad, 32, an administrative assistant who lives in Oakland, Calif., said she was annoyed by the extra hour it took her to get through security when she boarded a flight in Mumbai. “They’re being extra cautious, which I guess is fine,” she said. “But I don’t understand what it is they’re looking for. They went through my bag three times, and still I got my scissors and tweezers on the plane.”
Lee Hung Kyu, 40, who has worked as a Korean Air flight attendant for 15 years, said the new rules posed challenges for flight crews. On a flight to San Francisco, a woman who claimed to be sick protested when asked to give up her blanket an hour before landing.
Mr. Lee, who had made two in-flight announcements warning of the blanket collection, said he could not turn up the temperature on the plane, for fear of overheating the other passengers. “I allowed her to keep her blanket with one condition,” he said. “I checked it again to make sure there was nothing between the blanket and her lap.”
For the most part, crew members said passengers were cooperative. But Mee Hyum Koo, a passenger on a Korean Air flight from Seoul to New York, said the extra steps added to the anxiety of flying. “I don’t feel good,” she said. “It’s uncomfortable. Scary.”
Still, Sarah Woodhouse, of Norwich, England, said she could understand the new steps. Before leaving Amsterdam for Newark Liberty International Airport, she said she was asked to switch on her camera to prove it was not an explosive device.
“Everyone just accepted that that’s what you have to do,” Ms. Woodhouse said. Paul Bidwell, her traveling companion and a fellow high school teacher, said: “I’m quite happy for them to do it. It’s peace of mind for everyone.”
There was little peace of mind among passengers landing here Sunday on Northwest Flight 253 from Amsterdam, many of whom said they feared they were about to be victims of an attack similar to the attempt made on the same flight as it landed Friday.
Ali Hashemian, a passenger from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said a man who had been sitting in the last row of the plane had been in the restroom for a long time when an air marshal, his badge visible, began knocking on the door, but received no answer.
Mr. Hashemian and other passengers said it was unclear to them what happened next, but when the plane landed, the authorities escorted the man off. “He was very quiet,” Mr. Hashemian said. “He knew he was being arrested.” The Associated Press said he had been released after questioning.
Another passenger, Denise Kabalka-Chesney, of Romeo, Mich., said passengers were told that the man had been “unruly.”
The plane made an abrupt landing and then taxied to the remote location.
“When we made the touchdown, we knew something was going on,” said another passenger, Hitesh Desai. “The captain asked us to be quiet and stay in our seats. It all felt a little surreal.”
Passengers eventually boarded buses for the international terminal, where they waited another 30 minutes for the baggage before departing around 5:15 p.m., more than four hours after the plane had been scheduled to land.
“In the end,” said Joydeep Yadav, of Rochester Hills, Mich., “it was just an inconvenience.”