DHS to Expand Security Interviews on International Flights?

Security Interview Sticker
Well-Behaved Travelers Get a Sticker After a Security Interview!

I was almost booted from a Christmas 2014 flight from London to New York for refusing to answer questions posed by airline staff (not customs) about what I would be doing in my “destination” (a.k.a., my home), and I was clearly told that failure to participate in their “security interview” would result in denied boarding.  After the flight, I sued the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, who encouraged several foreign-flagged airlines at several “airports of interest” to implement these policies.  The U.S. government immediately backtracked, saying in court that interviews were not mandatory and could not result in denied boarding — that these airline employees were mistaken.

That front has been quiet for the last year or so, until the media yesterday reported that airlines are increasing security for U.S.-bound flights starting today, including “security interviews:”

New security measures including stricter passenger screening take effect on Thursday on all U.S.-bound flights to comply with government requirements designed to avoid an in-cabin ban on laptops, airlines said.

Airlines contacted by Reuters said the new measures could include short security interviews with passengers at check-in or the boarding gate, sparking concerns over flight delays and extended processing time.

As it would be trivial for someone with bad intent to invent a story about where they were going, or simply leave off the part of their plans that involves blowing stuff up, the airlines are, apparently, displeased with this nonsense:

“We see this as a big issue for China Airlines,” Steve Chang, senior vice president…

It’s just inconvenient for the passengers,” [Korean Airlines] President and Chief Operating Officer Walter Cho told Reuters in Taipei.

“Unilateral measures announced without any prior consultation… That is something that is very concerning and disturbing.” [Alexandre de Juniac, CEO of IATA (International Air Transport Association)]

So what happens when a passenger refuses to participate in the security interview this time?  Well, it just so happens that I’ll be on an inbound flight quite soon, so we’ll see, as I certainly won’t be participating, and I guarantee a lawsuit in 24 hours or less if denied boarding.

Update: DL inbound flight today, “interview” consisted of making sure I packed/watched my bags.  Nothing new here except it was asked at the gate. Will look forward to hearing experiences by other travelers.

10 thoughts on “DHS to Expand Security Interviews on International Flights?

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  1. Actually, instead of asking who or what you plan on blowing up, the employees could ask a short and polite question like “Did you have a good vacation in Moscow?” The answer is not important, but the reaction to any question is, as most do-bad people are a bit on edge and this could be caught by the employee who could then ask TSA to do some more there job and establish if you are a severe threat to the security of America. Of course, then there are trouble makers like us, who the American government would love to have an excuse to keep us from coming back into the country.

  2. Just as an aside, and after a long and deeply interesting conversation one afternoon with a NZ Immigration Officer, the ICTS sticker cannot lawfully be attached to passports in the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, or Japan: ICTS are not warranted border agents/officers in those countries and have no legal authority to alter a passport under the respective country laws.

  3. Interviews do have a value IF, and that’s a big IF, done properly. What a professional and trained security officer looks for in those interviews are not the answers themselves (he doesn’t care if you’re going to gamble in Vegas or visit your relatives in Kansas) but he’d look to see how one answers the questions, for example if the person starts sweating and gives confused/contradicting answers. Of course airlines personnel are not trained to look for those signs, nor it’s their job. Nor any of the TSA screeners for that matter who consistently fail to find weapon during their internal tests.
    What it looks to me that the TSA is trying to do, or will eventually do even if they don’t mean it, is to add so much bureaucracy and complexity to air travel until they’ll bring it to a halt and then there will be no more terrorists (nor passengers) in airplanes. I already figured that it’s faster, and definitely cheaper, to drive all the way down from SF to LA then to take a 1 hour flight with all the TSA procedures and overhead.
    Since the majority of passengers seem to not care about the TSA’s stupidity, harassment and money waste, maybe the airlines will start pushing back with all their money and lobbyists to dismantle, or at least restrain, the TSA.

  4. Tom — I would have to disagree based o n my own experience at the much-vaunted Israeli border. In full disclosure, I was crossing at the King Hussein Bridge land crossing, but had the same 20-questions interview as apparently takes place at the airport. I was meeting a former colleague of my former boss’s whom I had never met except by phone and email. I basically made up a story because I had never met the guy. When they asked my why he didn’t come to the border to pick me up (actually he was as close as he could get to the immigration building), I said he had an infant son and had to stay at home. I was only off by about 17 years! Perhaps this wan’t the “A Team” at the land crossing because they were spending lots of time and resources treating the Palestinians like crap.

    1. I get your political sarcasm at the end and we can start a private discussion if you want on why Palestinian are treated the way they are treated but that’s off topic.
      Back to the original discussion – you basically pointed out exactly what I was saying – trained officers don’t care particularly about your answers, they’re examining YOU not necessarily your answers, something that untrained airline personnel cannot do.

  5. Hi! I had the same experience while I was asssidting my mom at the airport where she took her flight to New York from Kiev. I wasn’t even allowed to ask why she was interview and didn’t receive any answer from air company security. Also I wasn’t allowed (by them) to accompanies her to the check desk. I asked security of air company Flyinua what are the legal reasons for that, but they didn’t reply and I started arguing with them. They didn’t provide any additional information but told me that they can put me off the flight. When they knew that I wasn’t flirting, they were disappointed. But as a kind of revenge they put a SSSS on my mom’s ticket. She is 70 year old lady flying to her children living in New York and thanks to that asswhiles she had additional security check . Is there any way I can set this company?

  6. 10-24-18 The Delta rep in Mexico City checked my passport along with Mexico’s required migration paper work placed a sticker on the back of my passport and I was asked at the gate if I was in control of my baggage.

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