Officials: In-Flight Restrictions Eased

In this Saturday, Dec. 26, 2009 photo, a bomb-sniffing dog makes it's rounds at O'hare International Airport in Chicago. The U.S. government tightened airline security as it searches for answers to how a 23-year-old Nigerian man eluded extensive systems intended to prevent attacks like his botched Christmas Day effort to blow up a Northwest flight from overseas. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty AP Photo/Paul Beaty

Updated 3:15 p.m. EST

In-flight security rules have been eased after a two-day clampdown, airline officials familiar with the matter said Monday.

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. In-flight entertainment restrictions have also been lifted.

The airline officials spoke on condition of anonymity because federal safety officials had not publicly announced the changes.

Security rules were relaxed in the last 24 hours, one official said.

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 posed no security risk to the plane.

Government officials have refused to discuss what restrictions had been put into place, but in many airports lines were longer and security personnel were extra diligent.

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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.

But such new measures were a poor attempt to make passengers think skies are safer, CBS News travel correspondent Peter Greenberg Monday.

"It gets a little crazy," Greenberg said after the government asked airlines not to use the in-flight entertainment systems that showed the rough location of the airplane on map, and asked pilots not to point out landmarks along the flight path.

What's more, Greenberg told "Early Show" co-anchor Harry Smith Monday, similar measures "weren't effective in the past. We even have a new system now where you're only allowed one carry-on bag on flights coming to the United States - not one carry-on bag and your computer. One carry-on bag. They used to do that, and that made havoc in the skies, because people who were transferring on different flights were denied boarding."

"The real problem here is that, tomorrow, if someone tried to detonate a bomb on a plane and, right before he detonated it, he sang, 'Mary Had a Little Lamb,' the TSA (Transportation Safety Administration) would issue a rule tomorrow saying, 'No singing on a plane.' It is a very bad camouflage attempt of not dealing with the real issue of how did this guy clear security in Nigeria and twice in Amsterdam, and still get on the plane?"

Authorities introduced a second layer of security at Pearson International Airport in Toronto. On Monday morning, every U.S.-bound passenger was subjected to a pat down and their luggage was inspected by hand. It took about three hours for travelers to get through the checks.

On one Air Canada flight from Toronto to New York's La Guardia Airport the crew told passengers before departure that in addition to remaining in their seats for the duration of one-hour flight, they were not allowed to use any electronic devices - even iPods - or their own headphones. The crew also told passengers that they would not be able to access their personal belongings because of the "enhanced security procedures."

U.S. airlines have been appealing to federal officials to make restrictions effective but palatable to passengers.

They remember that passengers accepted tough new security measures immediately after the 2001 terror attacks, which grounded all flights for several days, but that support for the restrictions waned.

Airlines are concerned the new rules are making air travel more burdensome and could discourage some business fliers - key customers for them.

Leisure travelers, such as the families that packed airports to return home on Sunday after the holiday, are likely to put up with the new inconveniences, as they have before.

But, say analysts, business travelers may think twice before flying if stepped-up security means spending hours at the airport. That's troubling to the airlines, because business travelers tend to fly frequently and pay higher fares.

Some business travelers could jump from the major airlines to smaller business jets to avoid wasting hours in the terminal every time they fly, said airline consultant Robert Mann.

Alarmed by the prospect of losing their best customers, airlines are already asking federal officials to make any new procedures palatable to passengers.

Darryl Jenkins, an airline industry consultant, predicted that any increase in airport lines would be temporary, until security screeners become proficient at operating under new rules.

"This is disruptive, and we all hate it, but I don't think it's going to affect (travel) demand," Jenkins said. "Now if it had been a successful attempt, that would be something else."
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