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Travel Security Update.

Oct 9, 2006

US, Europe Reach Deal On Air Data. The United States and Europe clinched a deal on Friday giving US law enforcement agencies easier access to personal data on transatlantic air passengers to fight terrorism, ending a legal limbo for airlines. The European Union's highest court struck down a past agreement after a European Parliament challenge prompted by privacy concerns. That expired last Saturday, creating a legal vacuum airlines feared could expose them to breach of privacy suits. EU lawmakers raised worries that Washington was riding roughshod over data protection concerns in its quest after the September 11, 2001 attacks to further a "war on terrorism" whose tactics many Europeans question. One Greek left-wing deputy accused the EU of having "totally caved in" to US pressure. EU Justice and Security Commissioner Franco Frattini said the deal, clinched in nine hours of overnight negotiations, would make it easier for US law enforcement agencies to obtain the information without giving them automatic electronic access. Oct 6, 2006

EU Restricts Amount Of Carry-On Liquids. The European Commission on Thursday backed new aviation security rules that will restrict the amount of liquids passengers can take on board planes. The rules, expected to come into force in early November, allow passengers to carry on toiletry items such as toothpaste, contact lens solution and perfume but not large drink containers, except those purchased after security checks. Size limits for carry-on bags will enter into force in six months. The rules were proposed last week by experts from EU member states to unify security measures across the 25 nation bloc. Authorities in London said in August they had foiled a plot to bomb flights to the United States using liquid explosives. Passengers will be allowed to bring on board one re-sealable plastic bag of a maximum size of 1 litre in which liquid items could be stored. Liquids would have to fit into containers that were 100 ml or smaller. Certain exceptions will apply for medicines, baby food and other dietary needs, the Commission said. Carry-on bags will be limited to 56 cm by 45 cm by 25 cm. Exemptions on the size of hand luggage will be possible for items such as musical instruments and cameras. Oct 5, 2006

EU Insists On Privacy Clauses For US Air Data Deal. The European Union could agree new rules on Friday to supply personal records on passengers flying to the United States if Washington guarantees adequate privacy safeguards, EU officials said. Under arrangements put in place after the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, European airlines pass on data on passengers, including addresses and credit card details, to be allowed to land at US airports. But the European Court of Justice struck down that agreement on a legal technicality in May and failure to find a fast replacement could expose airlines to breach of privacy suits. Despite Frattini's optimism, one EU diplomat said the chances of ministers having a draft accord to approve on Friday were still only "50/50". Oct 5, 2006

EU negotiators are wary about appearing to yield too much to US demands regarding the supply of personal records given widespread European public misgivings over President George W. Bush's "war on terrorism", from revelations about secret CIA jails to abuses in Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison. Transatlantic ties will not have been helped by the European Commission's proposal on Wednesday that EU states force US diplomats to apply for visas in retaliation for Washington's refusal to waive visa requirements for most new EU countries. Oct 5, 2006

EU To Ease Some Travel Restrictions. European Union governments agreed on Thursday to ease travel restrictions for people living near the bloc's external borders, a move that will make life easier for many Ukrainians and Russians. Residents of border regions in countries bordering the EU will be offered multi-entry "local borders traffic permits" free of charge, rather than having to seek costly travel visas. The permits allow entry to the EU for short periods of time through special border crossing points or fast-track lanes at ordinary border crossings. The so-called Schengen area comprises 13 EU member states plus Norway and Iceland which have effectively abolished internal borders. EU member states will have to reach bilateral agreements with neighboring countries to implement the new travel arrangements. The EU's executive Commission will monitor the situation and propose changes, if necessary, after two years. The new EU travel rules will apply to border region residents of the countries that have a land frontier with the EU, such as Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. It took EU governments about three years to work out the details of the change which has been sought mainly by new member states in central and eastern Europe, such as Poland. Some governments had been cautious about the plan due to public fears about organized crime and illegal immigrants. Oct 5, 2006

European and US negotiators were unable to reach a deal to replace current arrangements before they expired last Saturday regarding the supply of personal records . The 25 nation EU had wanted simply to roll over the old agreement on a different legal basis, but Washington demanded wider access to the data for counter-terrorism purposes. Air traffic has not been affected so far but the industry is concerned about the impact of a prolonged legal void. Senior EU diplomats said Brussels would yield to the US request to make it easier for more agencies to have access to the data sent to US border and customs services. But it wants to ensure the data protection safeguards included in the cancelled accord are reintroduced and extended to any new agencies covered in any future accord. Oct 5, 2006

US homeland security officials banned on August 10 bottled drinks and other liquids and gels from carry on luggage after authorities in London said they broke up a plot to trigger liquid explosives aboard US-bound flights. Transportation Security Administration screeners reacted quickly to carry out the mandate without disrupting flights, passengers opted to check more bags to avoid headaches at security lines. Homeland security officials relaxed the ban on September 25, allowing passengers to carry-on some liquids and gels, a change partly driven by strains on airlines and airports. Oct 5, 2006

In August, however, the US Transportation Security Administration banned liquids and gels, including toothpaste and shampoo, on carry-on bags after British authorities said they foiled a plot to blow up planes using liquid explosives. The restrictions on carry-on luggage, since eased, triggered a decline in demand for air travel. United, Continental, and Southwest all reported increases in traffic in September, while American Airlines bucked the trend, posting a 1.4 percent decrease in traffic. American's feeder carrier American Eagle, however, saw its system wide traffic increase by 3.1 percent in September. But load factors eased for United, Southwest, and American as increases in the number of seats for sale outpaced the rise in traffic. Oct 4, 2006

Since the Kashmiri man hanging date was announced last week in New Delhi, there have been nearly daily protests in Indian Kashmir. The airports include those in the capital, New Delhi, and the cities of Lucknow, Patna, Varanasi and Kolkata. Five gunmen stormed the heavily guarded parliament complex on December 13, 2001. The attack, blamed by India on Pakistan but denied by Islamabad, brought the nuclear-armed rivals dangerously close to their fourth war. More than 45,000 people have been killed in the 17-year-old separatist revolt in Jammu and Kashmir. An Indian Airlines plane was hijacked by Kashmiri militants in 1999 en route from Kathmandu to New Delhi and was taken to the Afghan city of Kandahar. The week-long siege ended after India released three Kashmiri militants from prison. Oct 4, 2006

US Reassures EU On Air Passenger Data. The United States has reassured the European Union that it will continue to apply safeguards on the use of air passenger data until the two sides conclude a new agreement, an EU spokesman said on Wednesday. US Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff gave the assurance to EU Justice and Security Commissioner Franco Frattini in a phone call on Tuesday as Washington and Brussels seek a deal to replace a counter-terrorism agreement invalidated on a legal technicality by the European Court of Justice. Oct 4, 2006

For security reasons, the Taiwan flights must fly via Hong Kong air space, without landing, while traveling between Taipei or Kaohsiung in Taiwan and Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Xiamen. Taiwan has banned direct air links with China since their split in 1949 after a civil war, with Taipei concerned that easy travel links could undermine its security and immigration rules. The two sides exchanged landmark non-stop charter flights for the first time in more than 50 years during the Lunar New Year Festival of January and February 2005. In June China and Taiwan agreed to regular direct passenger flights during four traditional holiday seasons every year. Taiwan will allow special emergency medical and humanitarian aid charter flights as well as direct cargo flights on a case-by-case basis, the two sides decided. China views Taiwan as a part of its territory and has threatened the use of force if the self-ruled island formally declares independence. Oct 2, 2006

Hand baggage restrictions imposed by the UK Department for Transport after an alleged terrorist plot have been relaxed. Passengers will still only be allowed one piece of luggage in theory but handbags will be treated separately, an anomaly. The maximum size permitted has been increased to that of a small roller-suitcase 56cm x 45cm x 25cm (22in x 17.75in x 9.85in approx.). A more enlightened view will be taken of musical instruments and other valuable items. Laptops and other large electrical items (e.g. a large hairdryer) will still have to be removed from cabin baggage and screened separately. Restrictions remain in force regarding liquids except those essential for the flight (e.g. diabetic kit), as long as it is verified as authentic. Medicines in solid form continue to be permitted. Baby milk and liquid baby food are OK but the contents of each bottle or jar must be tasted by the accompanying passenger. However the definition of liquids includes gels, pastes, lotions, liquid/solid mixtures and the contents of pressurized containers, e.g. toothpaste, hair gel, drinks, soups, syrups, perfume, deodorant, shaving foam, aerosols, etc. Most of these items you can purchase once airside. Passengers boarding flights to the USA and items they are carrying, including those acquired after the central screening point, will be subjected to secondary search at the gate. No liquids allowed. http://www.dft.gov.uk/stellent/groups/dft_about/documents/page/dft_about_612280.hcsp Oct 2, 2006

EU Hopes For New US Passenger Data Deal. The European Union hopes to reach an agreement with the United States on Friday on a new pact on sharing airline passenger data, the European Commission said on Sunday. A Commission statement said a draft agreement sent to the European side by US Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff on Saturday may be discussed by EU ministers in Luxembourg next Friday, "in the hope of having an agreement the same day". US and European negotiators failed on Saturday to reach a deal to share air passenger data before an existing agreement expired, but both sides said they would try to reach a deal quickly. Under post-September 11 anti-terrorism arrangements, European airlines supply US authorities with information on passengers entering the United States including their name, address, payment details and phone numbers. An EU court struck down the existing deal on a legal technicality in May but gave the European Union and the United States until September 30 to replace it. In the statement, the EU Commission urged the United States to continue to apply safeguards for passenger data laid down in the lapsed 2004 agreement until a new agreement was reached in order to minimize the risk of legal uncertainty and disruption to EU-US flights. The EU statement said Commission Vice President Franco Frattini and Chertoff were in regular contact. Oct 2, 2006

No Deal Yet On EU/US Air Passenger Data. US and European negotiators failed on Saturday to reach a deal to share air passenger data before an existing pact expired, but both sides said they would try to reach an agreement quickly. US Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said that while negotiators failed to reach an agreement during their talks, the United States was sending a draft agreement to the Europeans on Saturday. European Commission spokesman Jonathan Todd said earlier the talks had broken down, although he later said they would continue. Oct 2, 2006

Under post-September 11 anti-terrorism arrangements, European airlines supply US authorities with information on passengers entering the United States including their name, address, payment details and telephone numbers. An EU court struck down the existing deal on a legal technicality in May but gave the European Union and the United States until September 30 to replace it. Shortly after Chertoff made his comments, EU's Todd said the commission agreed that talks must continue and said a pact was needed quickly. Another EU official said the negotiations were only at a "temporary impasse" because negotiators had to consult with ministers in Europe. The Europeans were expected to discuss the issue on Thursday when Justice and Home Affairs ministers from the 25 European nations meet. Experts expected the terms of the previous agreement to carry over until a new deal could be reached and said transatlantic flights would likely continue without incident. Normally in the absence of a US/EU deal, data sharing would be governed by the 25 EU states' data privacy rules and this could spark complaints by travelers against airlines, EU spokesmen have said. Chertoff said the United States wanted additional data from incoming passengers in order to properly secure its borders. Oct 2, 2006

Bangkok, Thai Airways, Smiths Detection

Smiths Detection said it was awarded a $10 million contract to supply a comprehensive integrated security system for Thai Airways at the new Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport. Smiths is partnering with EMC Group Public Co., a Thai electrical and mechanical engineering contractor. Oct 6, 2006

Chicago Midway

TSA has deployed explosives-detection trace portal gear at Chicago Midway. Oct 2, 2006

Indian Airport

Indian Airport Security Stepped Up Over Hijack Fears. Security has been stepped up at a number of major Indian airports after warnings that a flight to or from Nepal could be hijacked, a security official said on Wednesday. The alert was issued after a New Delhi court ordered a Kashmiri man to be hanged on October 20 for his role in a 2001 attack on the Indian parliament,. Mohammed Afzal's wife on Tuesday asked the president of India, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, to pardon her husband, and his decision is awaited. In response to the threat, more security officials have been sent to at least 13 airports, manual searches have been increased and quick-reaction teams stationed at airports have been told to be extra vigilant. Oct 4, 2006

No Airline

No Airline Chaos After Failed US-EU Data Deal. Airlines urged European and US negotiators on Monday to agree to a new deal on passenger data transfer soon but said aviation traffic had not been affected by the expiry of the previous pact over the weekend. EU justice commissioner Franco Frattini said he hoped to be able to sign a new agreement on the anti-terrorism measure with US Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff on Friday, if he got a mandate from EU justice ministers meeting that day. The failure of talks on the issue in Washington over the weekend raised the possibility that EU nations would penalize airlines for providing passenger data to US authorities. But air carriers said they were complying with US rules and had not received any objections from European countries. Under post-September 11 anti-terrorism arrangements, European airlines have supplied US authorities with information on passengers entering the United States including their names, addresses, payment details and phone numbers. An EU court struck down the existing deal on a legal technicality in May but gave the European Union and the United States until September 30 to replace it. Oct 2, 2006

SAS Scandinavian Airlines

Security has taken on a new meaning with the introduction last week by SAS of a new system that checks that an item of baggage belongs to the same person that takes the flight. Experimentally tried at Lulea Airport, on the Baltic Sea near the Finnish border, passengers checking in baggage have their index finger scanned and finger print recorded. The information is stored in the SAS passenger register and correlates with the details on the baggage tag. A second fingerprint scan is carried out at the departure gate, ensuring that the person who checked in the baggage is the same person who boards the aircraft. All information is automatically erased when the customer completes the journey. The launch of the biometric security check-in marks the beginning of a four-week trial period. Assuming its success the new security measures will be introduced nationally across Sweden during autumn 2006. The airline plans to role out the system throughout Sweden, Denmark and Norway. http://www.scandinavian.net Oct 2, 2006

Turkish Airlines

Turkish Airlines 737-400 hijacking came under increased scrutiny yesterday as it became clear the hijacker acted alone and was able to penetrate the flight deck despite possessing no weapons, a striking security breach given the institution of post-9/11 measures such as hardened cockpit doors and the restriction of passenger access to cockpits. The flight's captain said the hijacker entered the cockpit and said there were three accomplices in the cabin ready to detonate explosives if orders were not followed, leading to the diversion of the Oct. 3 Tirana-Istanbul flight to Brindisi. "I obeyed because he gave me the impression his friends were there because he was often looking to the back of the plane," the pilot told reporters, explaining that the hijacker was able to enter the cockpit when a flight attendant opened the door to speak to the pilots. Italian officials yesterday released three Turkish nationals who were passengers on the flight and had been detained for questioning, saying there was no evidence they were involved. Oct 5, 2006

Turkish Airlines

Regarding the THY highjack, Turkish TV initially quoted police sources saying the plane had been seized in protest at a planned visit to Turkey next month by Pope Benedict, who offended many Muslims with a speech last month linking the spread of the Islamic faith to violence. But it emerged the hijacker was a Christian convert who wanted to avoid military service in Turkey and wrote to the Pope several months ago for help to avoid serving in "a Muslim army". Oct 4, 2006

Turkish Airlines

A Vatican official said the Turkish Airlines hijacking was not expected to affect the Pope's plans. Amato said Ekinci travelled to Albania in May and requested asylum there on the grounds that he was viewed as a deserter from the Turkish army and would be punished if he went home. Albania refused his request and he was expelled from the country on the Turkish Airlines flight from Tirana to Istanbul. Ekinci entered the cockpit when a flight assistant left the door open soon after take-off, Amato said. Amato said he received two versions of what Ekinci said to the pilot. He either told the pilot he would blow himself up or that he had accomplices on board who would do so if his orders were not followed. Oct 4, 2006

Turkish Airlines

Turkish Hijacker Was Alone And Unarmed. A man who hijacked a Turkish Airlines flight on Tuesday was unarmed, working alone and threatened to blow himself up if the pilot did not divert the flight to Italy, Italian Interior Minister Giuliano Amato said. All 107 passengers and six crew on the Boeing 737 were unharmed in the hijack which ended with the man's arrest at Brindisi Airport in southern Italy. The 27-year-old Turk, Hakan Ekinci, has requested political asylum in Italy. During the incident, the pilot reported there were two hijackers and the Turkish Defence Ministry said there might be four or five of them. Checks on everyone on board after the plane had landed and Ekinci had given himself up showed he was alone. Oct 4, 2006

Turkish Airlines

When the highjacked Turkish Airlines pilot transmitted a code which alerts air traffic controllers to emergency situations, Ekinci told him to insert the more specific code which refers to a hijack. "The pilot said he knew procedures and the meaning of codes and said he learned it all on the Internet," Amato told the Senate. "I don't know how many of you would have known how to do that, I certainly wouldn't have." According to passengers, 20 minutes into the flight the pilot announced that a technical failure at Istanbul Airport meant the plane would have to land in Italy. "But when we saw Italian soldiers at the airport we understood the situation. The plane was hijacked. There was no panic among the passengers," passenger Ergun Erkoseoglu told a news conference at Istanbul airport. "After the incident was over he (the hijacker) said: "I apologize to all of you. Good night." At the Vatican, Cardinal Pio Laghi said the kidnap "worried us not just because of the risk of blood being spilt, but also because other people might copy this violent act". "But I don't think this episode will have any influence on the Holy Father's trip," he told reporters. Amato said that while the hijack exposed the "fragility" of security on the flight in question, it did not heighten security concerns for the Pope's trip. Oct 4, 2006

Turkish Airlines

Turkish Hijackers Give Up In Italy. Two Turkish hijackers seeking to communicate with Pope Benedict seized a Turkish airliner flying from Albania to Istanbul on Tuesday and diverted it to Italy before surrendering. Italian police said the hijackers had given themselves up after a short period of negotiations. Police, military and fire vehicles surrounded the Turkish Airlines plane at Brindisi Airport in southern Italy, where the aircraft, carrying 107 passengers and six crew, landed after being escorted down by Italian fighter jets. Turkish television initially quoted police sources as saying the plane had been hijacked in protest at a planned visit to Turkey next month by the Pope, who offended many Muslims with a speech last month linking the spread of the Islamic faith to violence. But Turkish television later reported one of the hijackers had converted to Christianity and was a conscientious objector. It said he had sent a letter to the Pope in late August, asking for his help to avoid compulsory military service in Turkey. It quoted the letter as reading: "I am a Christian and I do not want to serve in a Muslim army." Turkish Airlines told Turkish NTV television pilot Mursel Gokalp had said the passengers were all well and the hijackers were not armed. Police with dogs patrolled the airport, which was immediately closed and crowded with stranded passengers. Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the Holy See was following developments closely and that preparations for the November 28 - December 1 trip to Turkey were going ahead. The Pope has said he regrets the offence caused by his speech, in which he used a medieval quotation linking the spread of the Islamic faith to violence, and said he was misunderstood. But Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has been one of those who have said they are not entirely satisfied with the apology. A Greek Defence Ministry official said the plane had entered Greek air space at 5:58 pm (1458 GMT) and was escorted out by the Greek fighter jets. The Italian air force later said it had intercepted the flight, which then landed at Brindisi. A number of planes have been hijacked to or from Turkey in the past decade, either by Kurdish rebels or hijackers with Chechen or Islamist sympathies. Oct 3, 2006

Editor: Aram Gesar, eMail: edit@AirGuideOnline.com

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Oct 2, 2006
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