The New ‘Enhanced Screening’ for US-Bound Flights Wasn’t Very Enhanced — For Me

Nov 6, 2017

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This weekend, I flew Lufthansa’s A350 from Munich (MUC) to Boston (BOS). It was a great experience, overall, as I’ll detail soon in a full review, but my Munich departure also gave me an opportunity to experience the new “stricter passenger screening requirements” for US-bound flights.

I had actually forgotten entirely about the new screening process until I came upon a checkpoint just before the US gates. Now, I’ve passed through that same checkpoint several times before, at which point my passport was checked against my boarding pass and I’d always been quickly sent on my way. There’s a secondary X-ray lane there, too, but I’ve never been selected for additional screening — perhaps that’s reserved for “random” selectees and those designated with an “SSSS” on their boarding passes.

What was new, however, was an interview process being conducted before passengers were able to approach the passport check counter. There were separate lanes for economy and business/first class, and they were moving fairly quickly. Interviewers were asking the same questions I’ve heard many times before, typically when checking bags from select European airports. Questions like…

  • Who packed your bags?
  • Are you traveling with any electronic devices?
  • Has anyone given you any items to carry on board?

From what I understand, agents are trained to recognize deception — and that’s what they’re looking for, beyond the “right” answers to the questions above.

My flight was operated by Lufthansa, but booked using United miles, so I came across the following notice on United’s site:

Screen Shot 2017-11-06 at 11.03.18 AM

Based on the text above, I’d expect a bit of a delay due to the new procedures, but once it was my turn for the interview, the agent looked at my passport and waived me straight through without a single word. I’m a US passport holder, and everyone being stopped for questioning appeared to be carrying foreign passports — but from what I’ve heard, US citizens have been subjected to the full interview process as well, so I’d budget a bit more time just in case. Three hours seems mighty excessive, though.

While my own departure wasn’t especially notable, it does seem like the new procedures are causing headaches — and delays — for some. Have you run into any holdups when returning to the US over the past week? Chime in with your experience below.

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