New security restrictions swiftly implemented following a botched attempt to blow up an airliner on Christmas Day will make air travel more burdensome and could discourage some business fliers, key customers for the airlines.
Passengers will likely face longer lines at checkpoints and less freedom to move around the airplane during flight. Leisure travelers, such as the families that packed airports to return home on Sunday after the holiday, are likely to put up with the new inconveniences, as they have before.
But business travelers may think twice before flying if stepped-up security means spending hours at the airport. That’s troubling to the airlines, because business travelers tend to fly frequently and pay higher fares.
Alarmed by the prospect of losing their best customers, airlines are already asking federal officials to make any new procedures palatable to passengers.
Tougher security measures were imposed after a man flying from Nigeria to Amsterdam then to the U.S. on a Northwest Airlines flight Friday tried to ignite an explosive as the plane prepared to land in Detroit. On Sunday, police met another Amsterdam-to-Detroit flight after the crew reported a “verbally disruptive passenger.” A law enforcement official said the man posed no security risk to the plane.
Government officials didn’t detail the restrictions, saying they don’t want terrorists to know about potential security measures. They also declined to say how long the measures would be in effect and said the limits could vary from airport to airport.
Travelers on incoming international flights said that during the final hour, attendants removed blankets, banned opening overhead bins, and told passengers to stay in their seats with their hands in plain sight.