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July 2, 2012

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Security tightens at airports

Passengers on flights from Shanghai will need to be at the airport some 30 to 60 minutes earlier than usual after security checks were tightened over the weekend.

It is not known if the stricter measures were prompted by an attempted hijacking of a domestic flight in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region on Friday.

Many travelers reported longer queues and tougher checks at the city's two airports, Hongqiao and Pudong.

The Shanghai Airport Authority said that an increased number of passengers would be asked to take off their shoes and unbuckle their belts.

It also said that the frequency of checks on carry-on bags would increase.

Airport security staff have also begun random tests for explosives at the entrances to terminal buildings and other places.

There were similar measures in place during the World Expo in 2010, an event which attracted tens of millions of visitors who arrived in the city by plane.

Normally, passengers are advised to arrive from 90 minutes to two hours before a domestic flight and up to three hours for international journeys. Passengers now need to add up to an hour to allow sufficient time to get through security.

On Saturday, a woman passenger posted a picture of one of her shoes online, saying that she had been told to take them off to check that nothing was concealed inside. Security officers told her that a knife could be hidden inside the shoes' large heels.

There was a mixed response to the stronger security measures. Some passengers complained about the longer time they had to wait while others supported the moves on the grounds of safety.

An airport authority manager told Shanghai Daily that the measures had been ordered by China's Civil Aviation Administration. No reason has been given for the order so far.

However, air security is a hot topic for passengers after reports that aircrew and passengers foiled an attempted hijacking on a Tianjin Airlines flight. Two policemen on the flight were seriously injured while the head attendant and seven passengers suffered minor injuries when they fought the hijackers.

Six men tried to hijack the plane six minutes after take-off from the desert city of Hotan at 12:25pm. It was heading for regional capital of Urumqi.

The six suspects are in police custody. Witnesses said the men claimed to have bombs and tried to break into the cockpit.

Passengers, including some who were police officers, leapt from their seats to help aircrew overwhelm the hijackers.


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