National

Electronic device checks launched by Japanese airlines amid tightened security

Kyodo

Major Japanese airlines on Tuesday began implementing tighter airport security measures on U.S.-bound passengers, checking for explosives planted in personal computers and other electronic devices.

Passengers are randomly selected before they board aircraft for the new screening procedures launched in response to a U.S. request and covering carry-on electronic devices bigger than smartphones, including PCs, tablet computers, e-book readers and cameras, airport officials said.

Normal-sized smartphones and cellphones are not subject to the tests, which are held behind closed doors.

It was not immediately known how many airports are involved. According to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, seven airports — Narita, Haneda, Kansai, Chubu, New Chitose, Sendai and Fukuoka — have direct flights to the United States.

No incidents related to the enhanced security measures have been reported by Japan Airlines Co. or ANA Holdings Inc., the nation’s two largest airline companies.

In March, the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump announced that laptops and other electronic devices larger than a phone would be banned from cabin luggage on direct flights to the United States from 10 airports in the Middle East and North Africa, saying it was concerned that terrorists may bring on board hard-to-detect bombs hidden inside such devices.

In late June, the U.S. government tightened screening of electronic devices on inbound direct flights from about 280 airports in 105 countries, including Japan. At the same time, it has begun lifting the in-cabin ban on laptops and other devices imposed in March.

The United States has demanded that so-called Explosive Trace Detectors, which can detect extremely small explosives residue that is invisible to the naked eye, be used for the airport security checks.

Passengers at both Narita and Haneda, the two major gateways to the Tokyo metropolitan area, seemed to have no knowledge of the tighter screening.

“I haven’t been told about it by my airline and I’m wondering if terror attacks can be caused by a PC or tablet computer,” a 36-year-old associate university professor said before boarding a plane operated by a U.S. airline.

“Is it really necessary that passengers need to be screened randomly?” he said.

Another traveler showed understanding but expressed her bewilderment.

“Safety should come first but I’d rather avoid being screened myself. It’s an annoyance,” a 32-year-old woman said at Haneda while awaiting her flight to Chicago on a business trip.