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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 Mar 10, 20, 1:50 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 Dec 15, 15, 3:53 pm
  #1  
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Enhanced AA airport security screening procedures, questions (master thd)

Hi all

I flew from Heathrow to the States yesterday on AA and encountered something new at the check-in desk. I'm curious for more information.

The line for regular check-in/bag drop was about 75 people deep. The preferred status line (not the special first class line) had about seven people in it. I got into the preferred line and was surprised at how much the agents seemed to be chatting with each customer, MUCH more than normal, when there were clearly people waiting.

When I reached the counter, the agent took my passport and then started to ask a series of increasingly personal questions. Where in the States do you live (I don't, I live here), where "here" do you live (in London), and where do you live in London (specific neighbourhood), what are you travelling to the States for (for Christmas), who are you spending Christmas with, and what do you do here in London (I work in X industry), and what do you do for them (I am a consultant, in that industry), what's the name of your company, where is your office (Central London), where in London (near Covent Garden), etc.

I was getting a bit irritated what I considered to be rather invasive questions (especially while I needed to get through security and do work) so I asked what was prompting all these rather personal questions. The agent then said "it is part of a new security procedure, it's for flights to America."

It became apparent that's why all the agents were taking so long, and why the regular check-in line was so long.

Does anyone know more about this new process, is it required by TSA or some other body, why agents are the ones doing this (no offence, but I wouldn't've envisioned an AA check-in agent would be trained in assessing threats or risks), etc.?
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Old Dec 15, 15, 4:01 pm
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This is part of a new AA customer security screening process. A friend, who works in check-in for AA in London, told me about it. The idea is that customers, "who have nothing to hide" will act normally; and people who have something to hide won't want to answer the question and will act nervous etc.

And check in agents are taught, in training, to notice the difference between people who don't want to be asked personal questions and people who don't answer the questions and shouldn't be allowed on the aircraft.

Also check in agents have to change the questions asked from passenger to passenger. And the training was rigorous for this new security screening.
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Old Dec 15, 15, 4:12 pm
  #3  
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Thanks for the quick reply.

So this is an AA thing, not a USA thing? Interesting. Is it being used in all international airports?

I certainly have nothing to hide...but this made me feel uncomfortable. "What streets is that near" in terms of my office location? "Which neighbourhood in London" for my residence?

It's like I've lost the friendly, open American in me and become...awkwardly British. *gasp*
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Old Dec 15, 15, 4:13 pm
  #4  
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Chatting people up by engaging them up in pointed conversations is an age-old technique. The answers themselves don't matter, it's the reaction to the questions.

I will be interested to hear more from people who are referred for further questioning, who conducts that questioning and what happens.
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Old Dec 15, 15, 4:21 pm
  #5  
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Is AA only doing this "enhanced questions" bit at the general check-in, or are transit passengers going to have to answer the same ?'s at the transfer desk or AC before departure?
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Old Dec 15, 15, 4:30 pm
  #6  
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I think a change of airline would be in order. If i'm going to be held up at check-in to answer some ridiculous 1990's security questions, i'm going to pick UA/DL/BA/VS to bring me over from London to the US.
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Old Dec 15, 15, 4:33 pm
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Originally Posted by airplanegod View Post
I think a change of airline would be in order. If i'm going to be held up at check-in to answer some ridiculous 1990's security questions, i'm going to pick UA/DL/BA/VS to bring me over from London to the US.
You're kidding right?
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Old Dec 15, 15, 5:01 pm
  #8  
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Originally Posted by oysterhead43 View Post
You're kidding right?
No, i'm not. Why should I be held up to answer some ridiculous questions that make no difference in security when United, British Airways, Delta, and Virgin Atlantic do not and would have me through the airport faster?
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Old Dec 15, 15, 5:29 pm
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Originally Posted by airplanegod View Post
No, i'm not. Why should I be held up to answer some ridiculous questions that make no difference in security when United, British Airways, Delta, and Virgin Atlantic do not and would have me through the airport faster?
How do you know the airlines you mention are not doing what AA is doing? I would rather feel safer than sorry when it comes to screening. When leaving Singapore, one person interviews you at a table where another person is unpacking and repacking you're luggage (checked and carry on). They did this for everyone checking in. Not just random. I feel much safer under this approach than just handing my bag in at the check in counter.
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Old Dec 15, 15, 5:55 pm
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I was glad to see this post. It explains what I experienced on 30Nov LHR-PHL. Wife and I were checking in and the agent asked many questions and there were around 8 people waiting in line. Questions like "What do you do for work" and "How often do you travel to London" and "Where do you like to stay while in London" and the like. We stood at the counter for several minutes longer than what would be normal. We thought it odd at the time but now understand it. Thanks.
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Old Dec 15, 15, 6:01 pm
  #11  
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So, check in online and skip this?
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Old Dec 15, 15, 6:18 pm
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Odd, I was in LHR this past weekend, going to JFK (but on Delta) and did not receive anything else other than the standard "who packed your bags" and "are you carrying electronics" at the gate (did OLCI)

I'd assume this may be an AA-only thing
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Old Dec 15, 15, 6:41 pm
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Originally Posted by VickiSoCal View Post
So, check in online and skip this?
They used to put a sticker on your passport signaling that you did the screening regardless of check-in method. The questions could be asked at the entrance of AC lounge, check-in, or at the Gate.
It's been like that forever. So, no, OLCI wouldn't help.

Also, the questions don't seem too unfamiliar to me and sounds like nothing new. There are threads here in FT detailing similar questioning (very old threads).

Last edited by carlosdca; Dec 15, 15 at 6:56 pm
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Old Dec 15, 15, 6:50 pm
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Originally Posted by VickiSoCal View Post
So, check in online and skip this?
You can't skip it, unfortunately. I had no idea this nonsense had started back up again at LHR - it has always been in some effect at most European AA stations I've flown out of in the past - FRA/BRU/DUB come to mind - but none of those were at the level of questioning I experienced at LHR.

I had OLCI'ed for a flight from LHR this past spring, got to the airport, went through security, and BA F lounge with no problem. However, upon trying to board, my passport didn't have the magic ICTS sticker on it, and I was directed over to a security <redacted> to be asked pointless/invasive questions as the OP experienced. Many of his questions I refused to answer on the basis of privacy, and was eventually "blessed" and allowed to board.

What kind of irks me about this process is that AA knows very well who I am and what kind of history I have with them as a customer - and these are their contractors, whom this info should be passed along to. No matter, they treat everyone the same.

Last edited by JDiver; Dec 16, 15 at 12:32 pm Reason: Redacted unnecessary characterization, per Rules
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Old Dec 15, 15, 8:25 pm
  #15  
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In October flying from ZRH to JFK, I encountered a similar set of questions at the check-in desk (pre-security)*. When I flew this route in Nov., I decided to skip the check-in desk (I had NO checked luggage; I printed my bp from one of the multi-airline kiosks). At the gate I was only asked about anyone giving me something to bring on the plane.
*I only went to the c/I desk to save time at the gate.
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