I fly to the United States fairly frequently, for both work and personal reasons, and have obviously observed the tightening of security measures over the past eight years, both on flights and at airports.
Yet, I was taken by surprise yesterday when, on my flight from Munich to Chicago, an announcement was made, shortly after taking off, to the effect that passengers would only be allowed to use the lavatory situated in the compartment of the aircraft where their seat happen to be — i.e., we would not be allowed to use lavatories located elsewhere in the aircraft.
This is something recent, as the flight attendant who made the announcement stated quite clearly that this is in accord with new federal regulations.
I spent some time thinking of a terrorist ploy that would hinge on the use of a lavatory in a different compartment of the aircraft, but I could not think of any, nor could the gentleman sitting next to me (a military man returning from Irak, no less). I am sure that there are reasons for this policy too… What is fairly obvious is that it can cause problems, especially on a long flight like a transatlantic one and with a full airplane, as on occasion all lavatories located in the same area of the plane will be occupied. In normal times, one would assume that, especially with small children needing “to go”, walking to some other compartment and using one of the free lavatories there would not pose a threat, but it apparently does, at this time, and is forbidden on an international flight to the United States (no such announcement was made on my subsequent flight, from Chicago to Salt Lake City).
The use of cell phones is also not allowed, on arrival, before going through passport control and customs. In this case too, this is recent, as I remember having done it in the past, in order to let people know that I was being delayed because my luggage was not showing up. I guess what I am wondering is why these measures are being introduced now… I mean, I understand the terrorist threat is always there, but if these precautions are so important, why were they not put in place a few years ago, at times of “orange alerts”, and “clear and imminent threats” ?