The US Department of Homeland Security has certain safety guidelines that they require foreign airports to adhere to, assuming they have nonstop flights to the US.
In other words, if a country wants to offer nonstop flights to the US, the security processes they have in place need to be approved by the US. For example, it’s my understanding that Kuwait hasn’t been able to adhere to these, and that’s why Kuwait Airways’ flight from Kuwait City to New York operates via Shannon, so passengers can be rescreened there.
Similarly, Kenya Airways recently began flying between Nairobi and New York, and the process of going through safety audits was one of the big challenges of getting approval for this flight.
Anyway, the Department of Homeland Security has just announced that Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport “does not maintain and carry out effective security consistent with the security standards established by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).“
This determination was made based on assessments by a team of security experts from the TSA (side note — do they ever send these people to audit US airports, given their abysmal record?).
So here’s the odd thing. You’d think that if the airport no longer met safety standards they’d be forced to temporarily cut flights, or something. Nope. Here’s the “punishment” for this situation instead:
In view of this finding and effective immediately, airlines issuing tickets for travel between the United States and MNL are directed to notify passengers in writing of this determination. The Secretary has also directed this advisory be displayed prominently at all U.S. airports that provide regularly scheduled service to MNL and that it be published in the Federal Register, pursuant to sections 114 and 44907 of Title 49 of the United States Code.
So the DHS is simply requiring airlines to let passengers know of this. I’m not sure what exactly that’s supposed to accomplish?
They’re also working to help the Philippine government bring the airport back up to international security standards. But in the meantime flights will continue to operate as usual.
As it stands, nonstop flights from Manila to the US include those on United to Guam (they also fly to Koror, I guess that qualifies as well?), as well as those on Philippine Airlines to Guam, Honolulu, Los Angeles, and New York JFK. So for example, if you go to United’s website you’ll now see the following notice:
On December 26, 2018, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that aviation security at MNL (Manila, The Philippines), which serves as a last-point-of-departure airport for flights to the United States, does not maintain and carry out effective security consistent with the security standards established by the International Civil Aviation Organization.
Our top priority is the safety of our customers and employees, and teams at the Corporate Support Center and in the field are working with Corporate Security and DHS to ensure the safety and security of travelers and employees. We do not expect any changes to our operations and will continue working with DHS so there is minimal impact to travelers, employees or the operation.
I’ll be curious how long it takes for them to get back up to international standards…