Passengers arriving on international flights at San Francisco International Airport today said they are glad for increased security measures prompted by an attempted terrorist attack on a Detroit-bound flight Christmas Day, even though their travel time has been increased.
“Whatever needs to be done, needs to be done,” said Dublin resident Konark Uppal, who arrived on a flight from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, this afternoon with his wife and 1-year-old son.
The security measures increased after Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, a Nigerian national, allegedly attempted to destroy a Northwest Airlines aircraft by detonating a device on its final approach to Detroit Metropolitan Airport on Christmas Day, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
The incident prompted San Francisco International Airport to beef up the number of San Francisco police officers working there, airport spokesman Mike McCarron said. He added that the security screening process has not changed.
Changes have been applied to international flights as well. The Transportation Security Administration posted a notice on its Web site stating that passengers flying into the U.S. from abroad may see additional security measures such as bag searches and pat-downs.
“During flight, passengers may 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,” the notice stated.
“With kids it’s a nightmare,” Konark Uppal’s wife Gurminder Uppal said. “There were a lot of kids, all screaming, on the plane. You can’t change their diapers for the last hour.”
Also in the last hour of the United Arab Emirates flight, passengers said they were not allowed to use headphones, get up to use the restroom or retrieve any belongings from their luggage in the overhead compartments.
Pillows and blankets were also taken away during the last hour of the flight, Gurminder Uppal said.
She added that the flight crew made no announcements regarding the status of the flight, which Gurminder Uppal called frustrating.
“On a 16-hour flight you want to know where you are because you lose track of time,” she said.
Another passenger on that flight, a Ukiah resident who declined to give his name, said he noticed three differences on this international flight than on ones he has taken in the past.
“They don’t let you have access to your luggage in the last hour before landing; as soon as you get off the plane they check our passport, even before customs; and they fingerprint you at immigration,” the passenger said.
He said the security additions slowed down the travel time, but didn’t cause any serious problems.
“It wasn’t difficult, but it was different,” the passenger said.
However, passengers on an EVA Airways flight that arrived from Taipei, Taiwan, just after the Dubai flight landed said that their flight crew had not instructed them to follow the same rules during the last hour as on the Dubai flight.
“It was a pretty normal flight,” one passenger said, who declined to give his name. “We didn’t have to stay in our seats for the last hour. We thought that was going to happen.”
Another passenger, who also opted not to give her name, said they were only told on the flight not to use the restroom within 20 minutes of landing.
President Obama addressed the nation from Hawaii today and said the investigation into the attempted terrorist attack is ongoing.
“This was a serious reminder of the dangers that we face and the nature of those who threaten our homeland,” Obama said.