Air travellers worldwide faced tightened security Sunday as authorities ramped up efforts to prevent attacks in the wake of a failed bid to blow up an airliner over the United States.
Amsterdam-Schiphol airport was also investigating how a 23-year-old Nigerian with reported links to Al-Qaeda could smuggle on board explosives that he allegedly tried to detonate as the flight from Amsterdam approached its descent to Detroit on Christmas Day.
And in Lagos, where the suspect's journey began, Nigerian authorities said Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had transited the country on Thursday, the day before the failed attempt.
The United States asked airlines worldwide to tighten security and airport authorities said they were complying with extra screening and strict baggage limits that heaped hours on to check-in times.
Akunyili defended Nigeria's airport security, saying she wanted "to assure everybody that our airports are very safe," having just passed an ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation) security audit and the American Transportation Security Administration audit in November.
"However, in the light of the new developments, we have reinforced our security systems in all our airports," she added.
Within the United States, air travellers were told Sunday to check in four hours ahead of their scheduled departure times, while bomb-sniffing dogs were visible at airports across the country, US media reported.
Once on board their flights, many passengers were told they would be unable to hold coats or blankets in their laps and would not be allowed to enter aircraft restrooms for the last hour of their flights, reports said. Related article: Fresh questions raised over air security
Passengers also reportedly are being told to expect additional airport pat-downs and gate security checks.
Dutch officials introduced extra measures, including the frisking of passengers and searching hand baggage, after it received a formal request from the US authorities soon after Friday's failed attack.
BA also said people taking Christmas or other gifts in their hand luggage would be asked to unwrap them before boarding.
At Paris Charles de Gaulle airport passengers were told that all hand baggage except women's handbags had to be put in the hold, and cabin items put in special plastic bags, one traveller told AFP.
In Asia, Singapore Airlines introduced strict new rules for flights to the United States from the busy Asian hub.
"One hour before the plane lands at a US airport, all passengers must be seated, and should not have any baggage near them or be covered with any blanket," a company spokesman said.
Hong Kong carrier Cathay Pacific and South Korea's Korean Air brought in restrictions on passengers using phones and the Internet on US-bound flights. New Zealand said passengers flying to the United States were being subject to additional checks, while Japan urged passengers to allow more time at the airport for tightened security.
Since Al-Qaeda's suicide attacks with hijacked airliners on New York and Washington in September 2001 and an attempted "shoe-bombing" on a Christmas week flight a few months later, airline security has been increasing.
In 2003, airlines reinforced cockpit doors and in 2006 many countries introduced strict restrictions on liquids allowed in luggage.
But experts point out that 100 percent terrorism-proof airports simply do not exist, as reporters have shown by smuggling weapons and explosives on to flights.
Source: AFP Asian Edition