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Latest Holdup at China’s Airport Security? Powder

Terminal T3 of Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport is seen in July 2017. Photo: VCG
Terminal T3 of Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport is seen in July 2017. Photo: VCG

Passengers flying to the U.S. now face extra scrutiny if they hand-carry a quantity of powder larger than a Coke can — a new rule that market observers said might become a common practice in other parts of the world.

The new rule, mandated by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration, went into effect at the end of June.

At the boarding gates of all international inbound flights to the U.S., including those from China, airlines now are required to take a closer look at hand-carry luggage if it contains more than 350 milliliters (11.8 fluid ounces) of powder, the Civil Aviation Administration of China said.

But the regulator told Caixin in an emailed response that it doesn’t plan to impose the rule for inbound flights to China for now because its security checks “can effectively cope with the current level of risk.”

The additional screening applies to a wide variety of powder products, including cosmetics, baby formula and protein powder. It’s an extended requirement that the TSA imposed on domestic flights last summer.

The stricter scrutiny has stemmed from an attempted plot last year to blow up a passenger plane from Sydney to Abu Dhabi, CNN reported. In July 2017, would-be attackers allegedly put improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in the carry-on luggage, which didn’t get past the check-in desk. Powder is a common material used to make IEDs.

Following the U.S. decision, Australia on Saturday introduced similar rules on flights that take off from the country to other destinations. In addition to extra screening, Australia doesn’t allow hand luggage that contains more than 350 milliliters of so-called inorganic powders, such as sands and salts.

Andrew Herdman, director-general of the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines, said that the best solution for passengers is to put their powder in their checked baggage.

Herdman told Caixin that if different governments impose different rules, “it makes the job for airlines and airports of screening passengers more difficult.”

“In principle, we do not support the idea of having different security screening requirements depending on which destination you are going to. It’ll be much more logical to work out a degree for governments to discuss and agree among themselves harmonized standards, which will then be uniformly applied,” Herdman said.

He added that historically, some countries will follow the American screening practices, which became stricter after the 9/11 terrorist hijackings. After the 2001 attacks, the U.S. limited the size of liquid and gel in hand luggage, and some European countries followed suit months later.

Contact reporter Coco Feng (renkefeng@caixin.com)

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