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Travelers to U.S. face new screenings

Associated Press

CHICAGO — Some were asked their hobbies and packing habits. Others were queried about what they do for a living. There were lines for security interviews and searches of carry-on bags.

The first passengers to travel under new screening measures for U.S.-bound flights were greeted at airports around the world with a wide range of hurdles — some new, some familiar — to clear before boarding their planes.

The Trump administration is requiring that both U.S. and global air carriers adopt enhance security screening for every flight to the United States. All travelers — American citizens and foreigners — are subject to the new protocols, which went into effect Thursday.

The new procedures cover all 2,100 flights from around the world entering the United States on any given day. But how each airline implements the measures varies, and some of the procedures have been in place before in parts of the world.

While some passengers described tense moments and long lines, there were few reports of major disruptions to global travel Thursday. Confusion, however, remains about the new regulations, with airlines describing different methods of implementation and some saying they were granted permission to delay putting them in place until next year.

Todd Gilliland, 40, arrived at O'Hare airport in Chicago from Uganda, where he and his wife run a school for underprivileged kids. He flew to the United States from Brussels, where he said he noticed more questions and more security officers than before. He said he got no notice from airlines about the new measures and was taken aback by the some of the questions before boarding.

"I got the question of what do you do for a living and I said what is your concern and the guy goes, 'You're being difficult.' And I just said, 'Boy, you're being awful rude.' He said, 'You're not being cooperative.' And I said, 'Fine,'?" Gilliland said.

But he said the security officer never insisted he answer, put him in another line or took any measures.

Chris McGinnis, an international travel consultant with Travel Skills Group, said the new measures were implemented during a traditionally slow period for international travel, making the transition easier. And in some countries where drug trafficking or terrorism is a concern, airlines have long subjected U.S.-bound passengers to security interviews, he noted.

"They are not looking for the right answers. They are looking for suspicious behavior, if you are sweating abnormally, you may be asked for a closer examination," McGinnis said.