Airline Security Questions Scrapped

No More Airline Security Questions

W A S H I N G T O N, Aug. 29 — Airline passengers, starting immediately, will no longer be asked the routine security questions about whether they have kept a close eye on their baggage.

Ticket agents have been required for the past 16 years to ask passengers two questions: "Has anyone unknown to you asked you to carry an item on this flight?" and "Have any of the items you are traveling with been out of your immediate control since the time you packed them?"

The questions are being phased out because they create a hassle and have never prevented a bombing or hijacking, said James Loy, head of the Transportation Security Administration.

"Over the years, they have lost whatever original value they contributed and can now be safely eliminated," Loy said Wednesday.

The questions take about 20 seconds to ask and that adds up to a longer wait for someone standing in line behind 20 people, Loy said.

The TSA, which was created after Sept. 11 to oversee aviation security, has already begun to notify the airlines of the decision, Loy said. "They are delighted," he said.

David Stempler, president of the Air Travelers Association, said passengers would be delighted, too.

"It's about time," Stempler said.

Loy, who took over last month, said last week the agency was considering eliminating the questions as part of a larger review of safety regulations. He announced then that passengers will be allowed to carry drinks in paper or foam cups through metal detectors.

Next on the agenda may be random screening of passengers at airport gates, he said.

"I think passengers would really like that," Stempler said. "We never understood that. You either do it right the first time or fix what you're doing at the security lane."

— The Associated Press

U.S. Backs Off Restricting Foreign Aircraft On Sept. 11

W A S H I N G T O N, Aug. 29 — The Bush administration backed off a proposal today to restrict foreign air carriers from flying over the three Sept. 11 crash sites during the anniversary of the attacks, administration officials said.

The Pentagon had proposed restricting foreign-owned commercial and cargo aircraft from flying into and from New York and Washington and over Somerset County, Pa., on the anniversary.

But amid protests from the carriers, top government officials decided to drop the idea, concluding that it was probably illegal, the official said. Foreign carriers will not be treated any differently than domestic carriers on that day, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

A Transportation Department official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, agreed with that assessment.

Intelligence officials pressured transportation regulators to consider restrictions on foreign flights, and the regulators moved too quickly in discussing the plan with carriers, a government official said. But various international treaties bar singling out foreign carriers, the official said.

However, the government is still considering restrictions on private planes, known as general aviation, and charter flights. They would be legal, the official said.

Small private plane owners are especially concerned about a proposal to ban their aircraft from New York from Sept. 11-13, said Warren Morningstar, spokesman for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.

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