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Enhanced AA airport security screening procedures, questions (master thd)

Enhanced AA airport security screening procedures, questions (master thd)

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Old Jan 19, 18, 11:33 am   -   Wikipost
Please read: This is a community-maintained wiki post containing the most important information from this thread. You may edit the Wiki once you have been on FT for 90 days and have made 90 posts.
 
Last edit by: JDiver
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MODERATOR NOTE

NOTE: This thread is exclusively for q&a, discussion about security procedures encountered by AA passengers. General discussion about airport security properly belongs in the Travel Safety / Security fora, particularly the Checkpoints and Borders Policy Debate subforum. Link.

The 2017 enhanced security interviewing general discussion is New passenger screening "interviews" to US, starting Oct 26/2017

As of Thursday, 26 Oct 2017 the procedures described below have been expanded to all airlines and departure points to the USA, required to avoid the alternative ban on personal electronic devices larger than a mobile phone that was originally imposed. By October 26 2017 these have been implemented network-wide by AA and most airlines. A few airlines were granted extensions until mid-January 2018.

Be sure to allow yourself plenty of time to complete these additional procedures, which may include all procedures detailed below, including interviews, deeper scrutiny of documents, carryon baggage and personal items, including explosives detection swabbing of electronic devices.

Link to Reuters article, 29 June 2017

Link to Time article, 25 Oct 2017

Link to USA Today article, 25 Oct 2017

Security procedures for those departing internationally to the USA, particularly since 11 Sep 2001, have been more extensive. The U. S. Department of Homeland Security requires ALL airlines perform more extensive passenger screening of USA-bound passengers. (AA began in Europe with ICTS International a Dutch firm founded by former Israeli Shin Bet (internal security) and El Al personnel. In Europe, when you have been cleared (at or near the gate generally) they will affix a sticker (base and letter colors may vary by day, etc.) marked "ICTS" to your passport cover.)

Passenger questioning generally includes a first layer of questions, usually asked by check-in staff, that include such items as "Who packed your baggage?", "Has your baggage been in your possession since it was packed?", "What electronic devices do you have?", "Have you had any repaired while on your trip?"

A second layer of questions may include requests for more detailed information about you and your travels, such as "What do you do for a living?", "What company do you work for?", "What's the name of your CEO?", "How many times a year do you travel through XYZ?", "Where did you stay?", "What's your favorite restaurant in ....?", "Tell me about your best ever holiday?", "describe your neighborhood" and include questions about your home address, neighborhood, children, etc. To some people these questions might appear intrusive; others may feel the body language, tone and language used are inappropriate in some way.

These second layer questions were previously asked by contract security personnel, but now might be asked by airline check-in staff as well. Note the behavior of the passenger is observed and may be emphasized over answer content. Failure to reply with requested information or refusal may result in more extensive procedures.

Be aware: it has been verified the agents have the ability to issue your boarding pass with "SSSS", meaning you will get "heavy" screening. Several people have described "giving lip" or declining to answer agent second layer questions for various reasons and getting SSSS.

Though USA-bound passengers are generally screened at or prior to entering the gate area for departure, additional screening may include more extensive questioning by AA or contracted security personnel and / or more screening of possessions. This may be entering or at the gate area, or even at temporary stations set up at the gate or on the boarding bridge; passengers may be selected randomly, or from lists that may include other countries one has visited.

Other procedures may be used at other airports for departing passengers boarding to the USA. Procedures may intensify or lessen as influenced by current security status or information in possession of local, airport, airline or other security and intelligence entities.

More extensive security suggest giving yourself more time to process these enhanced procedures.

Please refrain from altering this moderator note.
Airports initially used by AA included because of different, more thorough etc. security included:

AMS - Amsterdam, The Netherlands: USA-bound AA passengers are reported to undergo airline security contractor questioning at check-in or when transiting.

BOG - Bogotá, Colombia: USA-bound AA passengers are reported to undergo more intense, even aggressive, questioning even from than other Colombian airports served by AA in 2016.

BRU - Brussels, Belgium: a terror bombing at departures 22 Mar 2016 has impacted BRU and security procedures have changed and intensified as it slowly reopens.

DUB - Dublin, Ireland: AA passengers departing to the USA pass through airport security to the airside departures area with shops and lounges - followed by US Customs and Border Protection (customs and immigration) formalities and TSA security, as this is one of several pre-clearance airports (the aircraft arrives in the USA as a domestic flight). Please discuss DUB in the dedicated thread - link.

LHR - Some members report more extensive and intrusive questioning of AA USA-bound passengers. It doesn't seem different than questioning that has been used on departing passengers elsewhere (e.g. AMS, BRU, CDG, FCO, FRA, MAD in the wiki author's experience), but the intensity could vary - influenced by current security status or information in possession of local, airport, airline or other security and intelligence entities.

MEX - México City, Mexico: Hand baggage inspection tables are generally set up at the jetbridge for further examination of documents and carry-on items. Though passengers are said to be randomly selected, the first passengers boarding are often selected.
Updated October 2017 - JDiver
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Old Jan 19, 18, 4:25 pm
  #301  
 
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Sad CYA (Cover Your ...) attempt at showing increased scrutiny requested by USA. I think if this procedure made it to proper channel it would cease immediately and heads would roll.
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Old Jan 19, 18, 4:36 pm
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Originally Posted by TomMM View Post
SSSS really doesn't have an effect when entering the US.
Not true. I got SSSS in AUA this year and got my passport and ticket taken away and left in a room to be interrogated, pat down etc.

The funny part is I have homeland security clearance. And Global Entry. And a US passport. But I also have a beard now.
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Old Jan 19, 18, 4:37 pm
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@TomMM I'll chalk it up to coincidence, the last time I had SSSS on a connecting inbound from the Dominican Republic prior to the most recent one, I had one of the most intensive CBP secondary screenings ever done, but nothing more happened on my onward connecting flight from MIA.

@OTD, I didn't see any kiosks in the terminal (I was in transit, post-security), except there was a staffed counter where anyone going on to the US on AA in terminal 3 had to pass through. I tried the app just before take off and I got a message that no boarding pass was available but no message about getting a copy from a counter. I had already boarded by then. It seems that its not unusual based on MissJ's response, just odd that its handwritten.
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Old Jan 19, 18, 5:46 pm
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Originally Posted by Antarius View Post
Not true. I got SSSS in AUA this year and got my passport and ticket taken away and left in a room to be interrogated, pat down etc.

The funny part is I have homeland security clearance. And Global Entry. And a US passport. But I also have a beard now.
I stand corrected. What's funny is that a few years ago I was getting SSSS on every INTL trip and never got any special attention when I entered the US. Last year I went returned from SDQ without SSSS and got flagged for secondary screening which was nothing compared to the secondary screening I went through in Canada.
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Old Jan 19, 18, 6:47 pm
  #305  
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I spend most of my time outside the U.S., but regularly do mileage runs back to the States. When my MR involves a very quick turn (~24 hours or fewer) before returning to my point of origin, I almost always get SSSS on my flight to the U.S. Additional screening occurs at the point of departure, never on arrival in the U.S.
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Old Jan 19, 18, 7:22 pm
  #306  
 
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This happened to me at ORD three days ago on a domestic flight. Mystified...guess the TSA guy took something about my appearance as matching to watch out for suspicious behavior.....
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Old Jan 19, 18, 9:09 pm
  #307  
 
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Originally Posted by Centurion View Post
Sad CYA (Cover Your ...) attempt at showing increased scrutiny requested by USA. I think if this procedure made it to proper channel it would cease immediately and heads would roll.
I thought about that since the procedure doesn't seem to be quite in line with what is expected. Is there a channel in mind that might be worth a try? Manually checking off names on a long list with small print doesn't seem to be something that would hold up as acceptable.
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Old Jan 19, 18, 9:29 pm
  #308  
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MrsDallas49er and I flew in J, on different records together PEK-DFW in September 2017. She got SSSS and I didn't. They went through her carryons and that was it.

Originally Posted by poisson View Post
I recently flew CDG-ORD with my wife. She checked a bag, but I did not. She got asked a bunch of questions at the bag check line. They were things like: What kind of work do you do, what did you do in Paris, who did you stay with.

When we got to the gate and they scanned our boarding passes, we both got a red light indication. We were told to step aside for some questions. The lady started to ask the same type of questions. I quickly cut her off and said my wife had already been asked these intrusive questions and we will not be answering anything further. We are American citizens and simply want to return home.

Her response: "OK, have a nice flight"
Is ICTS no longer in use? I noticed the stickers on my passport had AA on them.


We flew CDG-DFW after Thanksgiving 2017 on the same record in J. On check-in, we both got SSSS and were to be at the gate earlier for "additional screening". It was on the jet way, with those selected standing in line, waiting to be called. My wife and I were screened about 5 feet apart from each other. My interregator was a young female with a lot of attitude. After a testy 10 minutes in English and French (where she told her partner I was an A** **** in French) , unloading my carry on item by item, she said "You should think very carefully about your next answers. It will determine if you fly today!" When finally cleared, I said "Since you unpacked my bag, perhaps you would have the courtesy to re-pack it for me?" Her answer "One more word from you and you will not fly today.".

Point being is I don't think my person was likely to say "Ok, have a nice flight" after being informed of our citizenship.
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Old Jan 19, 18, 9:44 pm
  #309  
 
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Flew LHR-ORD a few days ago, Wasn't asked a single question, nor subjected to any secondary screening.

Was on a T5-T3 transfer. Avoided the AA document checkers at the T5 transfer bus gate, skipped the AA counter/room prior to T3 security, cleared T3 security with my BA-issued boarding passes, hung out in the Cathay lounge until shortly before boarding, went to the AA lounge to get AA-issued BPs (with TSA PreCheck printed on them), and then went to the gate.
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Old Jan 20, 18, 5:55 am
  #310  
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Originally Posted by bse118 View Post
Flew LHR-ORD a few days ago, Wasn't asked a single question, nor subjected to any secondary screening.

Was on a T5-T3 transfer. Avoided the AA document checkers at the T5 transfer bus gate, skipped the AA counter/room prior to T3 security, cleared T3 security with my BA-issued boarding passes, hung out in the Cathay lounge until shortly before boarding, went to the AA lounge to get AA-issued BPs (with TSA PreCheck printed on them), and then went to the gate.
Genuinely surprised the jumped up grammar school dropout aangels in the AC were able to accomplish such a complex task.

Sounds like an almost perfect transit!
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Old Jan 20, 18, 8:45 am
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My thought on the hand-written SSSS:
I think that those appear when one of the agents has decided that you will be a selectee. The printed version shows up when the computer has selected you.

As I understand it, these do not carry over to onward flights If one gets "selected" at Heathrow and has a change fo planes in Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, or New York, there is no SSSS on the onward boarding card.
@bse118, I dream of having your luck. @Dallas49er, I am speechless. A case would settle, but AAmerican is clearly unafraid of litigation. That woman does not have any authority to ban you from flying. I believe only the captain has that power, and he or she would have to feel very comfortable with the decision to ban a passenger based on the impressions of an angry security employee.

These situations are just ripe for discrimination. I'm not an attorney, but guidance related to 49 U.S.C. § 40127(a), applies to airlines and contractors, and it specifically addresses non-discrimination based on appearance, sex, and national origin. It goes back further than that. The commerce act of 1887 forbids "unreasonable preference or advantage" to one particular person. And the Air Carrier Access Act applies on flights TO the United States (as well as from the United States).

I think American Airlines (or its contractors) would rather tun the risk of a DOT complaint or threat of a law suit than any attempted terrorist activity. They can argue that flights from Europe to the US present such an extraordinary risk that anti-discrimination laws no longer apply.

It is a bit like Customs and Border Protection's special status that they can search anyone or anything any time without probable cause. But they still got busted when they overwhelmingly strip-searched African American women despite greater likelihood of finding contraband on other demographic groups..

The TSA's "SPOT" rubric already applied "points" to single men under a certain age travelling alone. What's that about "age" and "sex" in anti-discrimination law? I would bet that the TSA would argue that the leaked rubric is no longer used. If that's the case, why do they ask for one's gender when booking a ticket?

All of us know that the "science" behind behavioral analysis has long been disproven. But it also presents a miserable cognitive dilemma: a passenger is a threat if he is too prepared, under-prepared, too interested in security questions, too casual in security questions, repeats a question back for clarification, has a new passport, has an old passport, visited too many countries, hasn't been to enough countries, has too many bags, has too few bags, the bags are too new, the bags are too old... you can't win.

Bottom line: I think this is only going to get worse. And I find it dangerous and insulting that American depends on pseudoscience implemented by minimum wage employees. They cannot argue that this is a TSA mandate. Although there are some reported exceptions, the depth and insanity of questioning is only on American. They probably feels proud of their perceived rigor; and a few too many passengers get stuck in the "anything to keep us safe" mentality.
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Old Jan 20, 18, 8:49 am
  #312  
 
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Originally Posted by Dallas49er View Post
Genuinely surprised the jumped up grammar school dropout aangels in the AC were able to accomplish such a complex task.


Is that really necessary? The gentleman that helped me at the AA lounge was perfectly nice and competent.

If you have an attitude...you are likely to get one in return.
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Old Jan 20, 18, 3:13 pm
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Originally Posted by Dallas49er View Post
MrsDallas49er and I flew in J, on different records together PEK-DFW in September 2017. She got SSSS and I didn't. They went through her carryons and that was it.





We flew CDG-DFW after Thanksgiving 2017 on the same record in J. On check-in, we both got SSSS and were to be at the gate earlier for "additional screening". It was on the jet way, with those selected standing in line, waiting to be called. My wife and I were screened about 5 feet apart from each other. My interregator was a young female with a lot of attitude. After a testy 10 minutes in English and French (where she told her partner I was an A** **** in French) , unloading my carry on item by item, she said "You should think very carefully about your next answers. It will determine if you fly today!" When finally cleared, I said "Since you unpacked my bag, perhaps you would have the courtesy to re-pack it for me?" Her answer "One more word from you and you will not fly today.".

Point being is I don't think my person was likely to say "Ok, have a nice flight" after being informed of our citizenship.
For the record - she still works at CDG as of January 2018. Same game - over the top attitude with an almost godlike behavior. She was "in the mood" - threatening two couples to deny boarding if they could not properly answer the questions. She tried the same with me. First in English, then switching to French, so I replied in German. Oh boy, she didn't take it well. She also gave me her "think very carefully about what you're going to do next" speech. Well, it takes two to tango, right? I basically gave her the same reply to all her questions - "I have a non disclosure agreement with a US govt agency". She took my passport and boarding pass and called her supervisor. After what seemed to be a longer discussion with her superior, she came back to me, handed over my passport and boarding pass and waved me onto the gate - "this time".

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Old Jan 20, 18, 8:04 pm
  #314  
 
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Originally Posted by ckx2 View Post
For the record - she still works at CDG as of January 2018. Same game - over the top attitude with an almost godlike behavior. She was "in the mood" - threatening two couples to deny boarding if they could not properly answer the questions. She tried the same with me. First in English, then switching to French, so I replied in German. Oh boy, she didn't take it well. She also gave me her "think very carefully about what you're going to do next" speech. Well, it takes two to tango, right? I basically gave her the same reply to all her questions - "I have a non disclosure agreement with a US govt agency". She took my passport and boarding pass and called her supervisor. After what seemed to be a longer discussion with her superior, she came back to me, handed over my passport and boarding pass and waved me onto the gate - "this time".

How many years and how many thousands of passengers until this person retires or is fired? Meanwhile, how likely is it that any such passenger (whether refused boarding or not) was actually a "security threat"? Rhetorical of course. I assume AA loses some business to airlines with more pleasant "enhanced procedures".
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Old Jan 22, 18, 12:20 pm
  #315  
 
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Has the process changed at LHR ? I checked-in at the Terminal 3 (B area). Was in J on the JFK
flight. Was given BP and I used that to access Fast Track. Then went to CX lounge and straight to
gate. BP scanned and told to go to boarding area. No questions asked anywhere or secondary
handbag screening !
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