New security creates few delays


Published: Monday, January 6, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 6, 2003 at 2:02 a.m.
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Passengers at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport wait in long lines to check in at the ticket counters as TSA employees screen all checked bags Sunday in Chicago. As of Jan. 1, 2003, the federal government began requiring all checked baggage to be screened for explosives.

AP Photo/Brian Kersey
CHICAGO - Knowing holiday travelers would be putting the country's new airport baggage-screening system to its first big test, Robert Chesniak gave himself 90 minutes to check his luggage Sunday at O'Hare International Airport.
That was about 85 minutes more than he needed.
"That wasn't bad at all," said Chesniak, 53, after a security worker wiped his bags with a sheet of material designed to pick up traces of explosive chemicals for analysis in a detector device.
Around the country, air travelers had much the same impression on what was expected to be the heaviest travel day since Jan. 1, when a Congressional order went into effect requiring that every checked bag at more than 400 of the nation's commercial airports be screened for explosives.
"It wasn't nearly as bad as we were led to believe it was going to be," said Roger Burlingame, who was traveling from Chicago to Phoenix. "A piece of cake," said his wife, Marni.
Spot checks Sunday at several of the nation's airports showed no major delays caused by the new security measures.
"It's about the same as before," said Richard Blackwell of Gainesville, Ga., who watched as screeners at Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport opened and inspected a sealed box of stereo equipment before a flight to Florida.
At the international terminal for Northwest Airlines at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, passengers waited up to 30 minutes longer than usual while their bags were sent through giant screening machines and workers ripped open taped boxes and rifled through their contents before closing them up again.
Most travelers simply accepted the intensified screening, developed since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Before the attacks, only 5 percent of the roughly 2 million bags checked each day were screened for bombs. The federal government put an additional 23,000 screeners into airports to implement the new order that no checked bag be allowed through without verification that it contains no explosives.
"It may add a few minutes, but I think it's worth it," said Trina Frandsen, who checked a cardboard box and large suitcase at Kennedy for a flight home to Salt Lake City.
"Maybe they could send me through that and I could get rid of that MRI appointment I have," Linda Johnson joked as she watched her luggage roll slowly into the bomb-detection machine at O'Hare before her flight to Los Angeles. The machine checks the density and chemical makeup of items inside each bag and alerts to anything unusual. Jack Dunnigan, of Natick, Mass., watched his daughter check in for a flight from Boston's Logan Airport to Florida.
"The more they (inspectors) do, the better I feel," he said.
Sonny Salgatar, a 23-year-old college student flying home to San Diego from O'Hare, watched as security workers sent his bags through a bomb detection machine twice - the second time because they'd put the wrong tags on them the first time.
After that second pass, a screener told Salgatar one of his bags was "hot," meaning there was something he couldn't identify and he wanted to open the bag for an inspection.
The "hot" item turned out to be Salgatar's clothing iron.
"Listen, anything they want to do for security is OK with me," Salgatar said.

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