December 25, 2009 Incident

On December 25, 2009, a 23-year old Nigerian man named Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, on board Northwest flight 253, attempted to detonate an explosive device hidden in his underwear.  The flight was en route from Amsterdam to Detroit, Michigan. 

Following the December 25th attempted attack; the United States imposed stringent new security measures on incoming international flights in the form of additional screening on passengers and carry-on baggage.

In response to the December 25th terrorist incident, the Government of Canada took the following steps:

  • introduced additional security measures (e.g. increased secondary screening of passenger and their carry-on baggage)  in order to enhance security at Canadian airports and maintain air traffic to the United States;
  • authorized the hiring of additional CATSA screeners in order to implement the new measures while minimizing impact on Canadian holiday travellers;
  • authorized CATSA to use police officers to actively assist with some procedures specific to the screening process;
  • restricted the number of carry-on baggage on flights to the United States;
  • announced the purchase of 44 whole body imaging scanners to be deployed at major airports across Canada in the coming year; and
  • announced that the Government of Canada intends to introduce a new passenger behaviour observation program as an additional screening layer.  The Request for Proposal was posted for the development of a program and training regimen with the intention of implementing in 2010-11.

On December 26, 2009, airlines reported widespread delays and cancellations as authorities scrambled to implement these new measures.  These delays had system-wide repercussions creating a trickle-down effect, as aircraft and crew availability became an issue.  By December 28, 2009, most of these issues had been resolved and airlines were completing almost all scheduled flights.

There are approximately 600 flights a day to the US from Canada.  The additional screening measures had a significant impact on CATSA.  To minimize the impact, Transport Canada prohibited carry-on baggage immediately following the incident.  The restriction was relaxed in January to one carry-on and the two carry-on limit was restored in April 2010. 

The Department continues to closely monitor the situation at Canadian airports.  Transport Canada officials will continue to work closely with their U.S. counterparts and other key international partners to address vulnerabilities and identify sustainable approaches to strengthen the global security system.

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