Passengers to U.S. will face more security, added delays

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Passengers to U.S. will face more security, added delays

The transport ministry announced Tuesday that all passengers bound for the United States and its territories will soon have to undergo security interviews at airport check-in counters amid growing concerns about terrorist attacks, which will potentially require passengers to arrive at the airport four to five hours earlier than their departure time.

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport said the new measure will begin from Oct. 26, as requested by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA). The ministry added that from July 19 they had already begun additional screenings of portable electronic equipment such as notebooks and smartphones.

Domestic low-cost carriers and U.S. airlines, including Delta Airlines and American Airlines, will be the first to be affected from Oct. 26 in Korea, a source from the ministry said.

The TSA is accepting requests for delays in implementing the security interviews from full-service carriers. According to the transport ministry, Korean Air and Asiana Airlines have asked TSA for a delay until January, when the construction of Incheon International Airport’s Terminal 2 is expected to be completed. The TSA has not yet answered requests.

Passengers will be asked questions regarding the purpose and estimated duration of their visit, as well as their current residential address. If they are assessed as “unfit” for boarding, they may be subject to further questioning and a thorough body check. Fearing such procedures will cause delays, airlines plan to advise passengers to arrive earlier at the airport and hire more employees to conduct the interviews.

But some believe the security checks will not be as time-consuming as feared. One source from the airline industry said, “The interview will take at most two to three minutes, and because Korean passengers will be conversing with Korean interviewers, there’s no need for anxiety.”

The transport ministry added that to prepare for the interviews, it is “making plans to respond effectively with airlines, Incheon Airport and related institutions to minimize discomfort among passengers.”

BY YANG BO-RA, KIM EUN-JIN [kim.eunjin1@joongang.co.kr]

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