By Bernd Debusmann Jr., Reuters
NEW YORK — Airline passengers in New York welcomed stricter safety rules that went into effect on Monday, especially in light of last week’s interception of U.S.-bound parcel bombs sent from Yemen.
The rules, originally prompted by the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks but delayed by privacy concerns, require airlines to collect a passenger’s full name, date of birth and gender on all flights to and from U.S. airports. The program is aimed at ensuring that passengers on the “no fly” list are kept off planes — and that innocents are not wrongly barred from flying. It is meant to prevent airlines from issuing a boarding pass if the information is incomplete. Passengers interviewed at New York’s John F. Kennedy airport overwhelmingly supported the rules, which major airlines had largely been implementing anyway before their formal introduction. “What happened last week shows that terrorists would still like to attack an airplane. It’s scary, so whatever precautions they feel like taking, I’m OK with,” said Lawrence Varner, 75, a retiree who had just arrived from Tennessee. One package was found on a United Parcel Service cargo plane at East Midlands Airport, north of London, on Friday. The other bomb was discovered in a computer printer cartridge in a parcel at a FedEx facility in Dubai. “I don’t think people should complain, especially given the fact that there have been recent plots against airplanes in the news, like that one last week,” said Daniel Metz, 37, a bar owner. “These things are probably necessary. Terrorists are still trying to attack, and that needs to be made difficult for them,” added Rosie Duarte, 28, who is unemployed. The new rules, called Secure Flight, were established as part of the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, which investigated the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. It was coincidental that they came into effect days after last week’s incidents. “I’m not worried about the no-fly list or having to provide information. It’s the ones that they don’t know about, at all, that concern me. None of the 9/11 hijackers were on a no-fly list,” said Bryan Pettit, 30, a teacher. Trade groups representing major airlines say carriers already comply with Secure Flight rules and expect no disruption for travelers. Far less popular were “body scanners,” the advanced imaging technology in use at 65 airports in the United States. Passengers who fear an invasion of privacy can opt for a pat-down search instead. “I’m not comfortable with either the pat down or the scan,” said James Carol, 29, a lawyer from San Francisco. “They’re only giving us two bad options and finding out which we dislike less.”