Airport Security MeasuresWondering how Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was able to slip past airport security with explosives and board an international flight bound for Detroit?  So is everyone else – especially considering that this guy was known to be “trouble“, was on a passenger “watch list” and had paid cash ($2,831) for his ticket.   Federal authorities are meeting today to address this issue and to reassess how passengers are screened and the processes behind our “watch list” management.

The AP reports that Abdulmutallab’s name, “…was one of about 550,000 in the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment database, known as TIDE, which is maintained by the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center.  Inclusion in that database does not trigger mandatory additional airport screening.”  “…Abdulmutallab had been placed in a U.S. database of people suspected of terrorist ties in November, but officials say there was not enough information about his activities to place him on a watch list that could have kept him from flying.”

Someone please help me connect the dots here.  What does it actually mean to be on the TIDE list?  If it doesn’t call for extra airport screening, then what does it do?  And if this guy was suspected of having terrorist ties, at what point is he prohibited from boarding a commercial airliner?  I hope that these questions get answered for us in the coming days.

For now, we’re all going to have to live with a new list of security measures, including the following:

1. On many international flights destined for the U.S., passengers are being limited to one personal carry-on bag.

2. Passengers on U.S.-bound international flights will undergo a second round of security checks at the gate, including manual bag and body searches.

3. The screen displaying the map showing the progress and location of the aircraft while in flight will be disabled – and there will be no announcements from the cockpit about cities, landmarks or when the plane starts to descend.

4. During the last hour of flight, passengers will be asked to remain seated until the airplane lands – and to not keep books, magazines, pillows or blankets in their lap.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • Travel + Leisure magazine published its list of the 500 best hotels in the world.  The No. 1 hotel in the U.S., according to the magazine, was the Inn at Palmetto Bluff, in Bluffton, S.C.  The list also includes 66 properties that offer rooms for $250 a night or less, including the Inn on the Alameda, Santa Fe, N.M.; Hotel Lucia, Portland, Ore.; and Rockhouse Hotel, Jamaica.  The list is based on the magazine’s 2009 World’s Best Awards readers’ survey results.  As part of the survey, Travel + Leisure readers rated hotels on several characteristics including rooms/facilities, location, service, restaurants/food, and value.
  • At the Sheraton Nassau Beach Resort, in the Bahamas, guests who donate a winter coat upon check-in will receive a voucher for one free night on their next visit to the resort (limit of two vouchers per room).  The coat drive supports the One Warm Coat organization, which provides free coats to people in need.  The drive will run through March 19.