DALLAS - In-flight security rules have been eased after a two-day clampdown, airline officials familiar with the matter said yesterday.
At the captain's discretion, passengers can once again have blankets and other items on their laps or move about the cabin during the tail end of flight. Restrictions on in-flight entertainment systems that show the plane's path were also lifted.
The airline officials spoke on condition of anonymity because federal safety officials had not publicly announced the changes.
A spokeswoman for the Transportation Security Administration said the agency was "continually reviewing and updating" security measures. She declined to offer details.
Tougher airline security measures were imposed Friday after a man flying from Nigeria to Amsterdam then to the U.S. on a Northwest Airlines flight tried to ignite an explosive as the plane prepared to land in Detroit. On Sunday, police met another Amsterdam-to-Detroit flight after the crew reported a "verbally disruptive passenger." A law enforcement official said the man, who spend several minutes in the bathroom, posed no security risk to the plane.
The procedures, including more extensive pat-downs of passengers and examination of baggage, led to longer lines at many airports, and security personnel were extra diligent.
Travelers on incoming international flights said that during the final hour, attendants removed blankets, banned opening overhead bins, and told passengers to stay in their seats with their hands in plain sight.
Before a Continental Airlines flight from Cancun, Mexico, to Newark, N.J., even babies were frisked. Once in the air, when flight attendants announced that the toilets would soon be off-limits, passengers lined up 10-deep for a last chance to go. One attendant threatened to confiscate Christmas cards that a passenger held in her lap to write on them.
In Philadelphia, sisters Leslie and Lilliam Bernal said security was much tighter as they returned from a wedding in the Dominican Republic than it had been in September, when they made the same trip.
Leslie, 26, of Keasby, N.J., said security screeners in Santo Domingo asked her to lift her long hair so they could look at her back.
"I don't mind at all," she said. "I'd rather them do what they have to do."