- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 29, 2009

DALLAS | 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 a flight. In-flight entertainment restrictions also have 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 and then to the U.S. on a Northwest Airlines flight tried to ignite an explosive as the plane prepared to land in Detroit.

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.

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.

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.

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 the 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.”

“I’m one of those who trusts that they’re trying to do the right thing, even if it is a pain,” he said.

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.

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