UK & World News

  • 4 July 2014, 10:07

Airlines To Scrutinise Smartphones Amid Threat

Airlines with direct flights to the US have been told to tighten their screening of mobile phones amid fears terrorists could use them in bomb attacks.

US officials singled out Apple iPhones and Samsung Galaxy handsets for extra security checks.

They will apply to US-bound direct flights from Europe, the Middle East and Africa, the officials said.

The new precautions come in response to requests from US authorities, who fear attacks on planes flying to America.

US security officials said they fear bomb makers from the Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) have worked out how to turn the phones into explosive devices which can avoid detection.

They also are concerned that hard-to-detect bombs could be built into shoes.

A US official said that other electronic devices carried by passengers also are likely to receive more intense scrutiny.

Airlines or airport operators that fail to strengthen security could face bans on flights entering the US.

On Thursday, the US Homeland Security Department announced on plans to step up general security checks, but offered few details on how airlines and airports will implement them.

An official familiar with the issues said the US believes that while it is possible there may be some additional delays at security checkpoints, at most major airports passengers will not be seriously inconvenienced.

The official said most passengers taking long-distance flights arrive well in advance of scheduled departures, leaving time for extra screening.

But he said the US could not rule out disruptions in countries where airport infrastructure and security procedures are less sophisticated.

In the UK, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said the additional security was not expected to cause "significant" disruption to flights.

He told Sky News: "There will be extra security checks but they will be made in the course of events people already go through and I hope there will not be significant delays."

But British aviation security expert Philip Baum said heightened security will inevitably mean longer queues and increased waiting times to board flights at UK airports.

"It will mean (more) random searches, secondary searches and an increase in the number of passengers asked to remove shoes and possibly all passengers being asked to remove shoes if they're going on certain flights," he said.

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