Travelers Face No Major Disruption From Airline Security Rules

By TERRY KINNEY, The Associated Press

Airline travelers who feared long lines and even longer delays were pleasantly surprised Friday.

Many arrived at airports much earlier than usual, wary of backups that might result from a new law requiring airlines to check bags for explosives -- either by machine, hand or bomb-sniffing dog, or by matching each piece of checked luggage to a passenger on board.

"It was easy enough," said Joy Estose, of Columbus, who went to Port Columbus International Airport two hours earlier than normal for a flight to Houston.

"You just walked up to the ticket counter," said Estose, who was traveling with three children. "It wasn't too bad. There was no one in front of us."

Pat Davidson and his wife, Cheryl, of Waynesville, found only a handful of people in line as they waited to check in for a flight to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.

"They said to give yourself two hours, so we did," Davidson said. "We don't leave for a couple of hours and it's not going to take very long at all to get through the line."

A Delta spokeswoman said the number of passengers booked for Friday was about normal, even though concourses at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International appeared less busy than ususal.

"Friday is typically a busy day for us. It's a holiday weekend, and we have heavy loads today," said spokeswoman Peggy Estes. "Bookings are pretty heavy, but things are pretty smooth."

At Port Columbus, traffic was about average for a Friday, said airport spokesman David Whitaker.

"Today, we transitioned smoothly into another level of security," Whitaker said. "We're pleased with our progress as it relates to security, and we think things are going well."

Ben Clark, a spokesman for Continental Airlines at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, said bookings were fairly typical for a Friday.

"Systemwide, the loads today are fairly heavy," Clark said.

Still, Dustin Smith, 25, of Cleveland, said he made it through check-in in about 15 minutes.

"I thought it was going to be a lot longer, so I got here as early as I could," Smith said.

That left him with two hours to kill until his flight to Chicago.

Richard Mascis, 68, who was returning to Vienna, Va., from Cleveland, said he didn't mind the extra security, but thought the system for deciding random searches was flawed.

"They should give us a questionnaire and then target the searches based on the answers," Mascis said. "How many 75-year-old, female hijackers do you know of? They could be using their resources much better."

Lines and waits were a little longer at Toledo Express Airport, but there were few complaints and most planes left on time.

Checks of carry-on baggage appeared to be unchanged from the routine that has been followed since the September terrorist attacks. Security officers opened and checked some luggage by hand, but there was no sign of extra dogs or police.

"We are encouraging passengers to know that we are doing this for them," said John Dupigny of Argenbright Security at Port Columbus. "Some don't understand what is going on."

Kimberly Heck, a student at the University of Findlay, said she got to the Columbus airport at 8:30 a.m. for an 11:50 a.m. flight to Mexico City, but didn't mind the extra time.

"In the long run, it will be beneficial to the passengers," she said. "I think this will be OK."

At Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, Steve Maxwell of Batavia, Ill., sat all alone in an American Airlines waiting area as he watched a television report of long lines at the airport in Atlanta.

His problem was not long lines, but a canceled flight to Chicago.

"I was hoping to get home early today because Sunday I have to go to San Jose for a business meeting," said Maxwell, 39, a communication systems salesman.

He had planned to avoid the extensive baggage search by limiting himself to a small carry-on.

"I try to travel light," Maxwell said. "If it doesn't fit in a carry-on, it doesn't go."

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)