Canada bans most carry-on luggage for US bound flights, following Christmas plot

By Rob Gillies, AP
Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Canada bans most US-bound carry-on bags

TORONTO — Canadian officials have banned most carry-on luggage for U.S.-bound passengers following a failed Christmas Day plot to blow up a plane flying from Amsterdam to Detroit.

Transport Canada said Monday that passengers may only carry medical devices, small purses, cameras, laptop computers, canes, walkers, diaper bags, musical instruments and bags containing “life-sustaining items.”

Travelers headed for the United States have been allowed to carry on only one bag since Saturday, following 23-year-old Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s alleged attempted to bring down a Northwest Airlines flight as it prepared to land in Detroit on Friday.

Transport Canada said it is trying to alleviate backlogs at security checkpoints, after passengers complained of chaos and long lines at Pearson International Airport in Toronto over the weekend and Monday morning.

Police are now helping with security at four of Canada’s biggest airports after Transport Canada requested assistance. Police are performing a secondary search of passengers after they pass the main security check point at airports in Toronto, Montreal, Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta. About 40 Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers are doing searches at Pearson.

Transport Canada spokesman Patrick Charette said the measures are expected to remain in place for at least several days.

“We hope the restrictions on those carry-on baggage will help to assure the effectiveness and efficiency of security screening,” Charette said.

At the Toronto airport Monday morning, every U.S.-bound passenger was subjected to a pat-down and luggage was inspected by hand. Getting through the checks took about three hours, with some information boards citing the security measures for several delays and cancelations.

Trish Krale of the Greater Toronto Airports Authority said Monday went somewhat more smoothly at Pearson after a very difficult weekend. More than 130 flights were canceled.

Air Canada and its affiliate Jazz canceled several short-haul flights to the U.S. due to security delays. Air Canada consolidated flights and operated larger aircraft on some routes — particularly from Toronto to destinations in the Northeastern U.S.

“We appreciate the cooperation and understanding of our customers during this challenging time and ask them to assist us in getting them to their destination faster by bringing as little carry-on as possible,” Duncan Dee, Air Canada’s Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, said in a statement. “Air Canada is doing everything it can to maintain its schedule, despite the delays caused by security screening issues outside its control. However, our number one priority remains the safety and security of our customers and staff.”

One woman said the lines are the worst she’s seen during her family’s annual Christmas trek to Canada.

“This is probably five times the lines we’ve ever experienced,” said Christin Grand, who was traveling home to Atlanta with her three children and husband. “We come up every Christmas and never experienced lines like this. We usually show up an hour and fifteen minutes before our flight and we’re two plus hours before and it’s still crazy.”

Andre Belanger, a Montreal resident flying to Fort Lauderdale from Montreal’s Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport, didn’t mind that he was sent back to check in a carry-on bag

“I’m not frustrated at all because I know that security commands things like that, so I will comply with the instructions,” Belanger said. “It’s a question of lives, you know.”

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