- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 31, 2001

Airport managers nationwide are frustrated at the inability of most airlines to move passengers more swiftly through tough new security scans.
"I won't be satisfied until we don't have the lines anymore, and we're working with airlines at all levels to express our dissatisfaction with the lines," said Beverly Swain Staley, manager of Baltimore-Washington International Airport, which a recent poll of 2,878 travelers ranked worst in the nation for tedious lines.
Over the weekend, BWI was offered some assistance by Federal Aviation Administrator Jane Garvey's decision to allow police and state workers to help man checkpoints for the first time. The checkpoints have been congested by the combination of overflow from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and the success of Southwest Airlines at filling planes.
But as in Denver, third-worst for long lines, travelers at BWI may still face lines that can take three hours or more to navigate as well as another factor common to all airports among the worst 10: airlines' resistance to change.
Until now, airlines had sole responsibility for screening, and they freely closed security lanes even as airports urged them to add more.
"We can't make them do it," said John L. White, BWI's communications director. "We don't dictate business practices to private businesses."
Ironically, the daybreak baggage check-in and security lines are often clogged by cautious worriers following advice to arrive four or five hours early for late-morning and afternoon flights.
"They really screw things up," said Rich Walters, a Continental Airlines shift supervisor who blamed BWI's advice to arrive four hours early when departures later in the morning are easier to process.
"One airline said six hours, some said two, the majority said four hours. So we went with the consensus of four," said Mr. White, noting that the BWI Web site now suggests a two-hour grace period.
Delta Air Lines still recommends arriving "at least two hours" ahead at all airports, while Southwest Airlines tailors lead times by days of the week at each of its 59 airports. At Salt Lake City, for instance, Delta asks two hours and Southwest advises one.
"Baltimore is two hours, regardless," Southwest spokeswoman Beth Harbin said.
As one intended defense against repetition of the September 11 hijackings, airport lines snake through terminals while identification is matched to travel documents as often as four times, some checked baggage is searched by hand and new bans on sharp things cause tiny cuticle scissors to be seized.
Analysts say security is nonetheless less strict than at Israeli and European airports.
"The new passenger-focused regulations would have done nothing to stop the terrorists and will do little more than add to already long delays at airports," said Robert W. Poole Jr. of the National Center for Policy Analysis.
On Friday from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m., BWI's ultrabusy travel period, The Washington Times surveyed its Pier B, whose sole tenant, Southwest, is flying 100 percent full on many flights.
While thousands lined up in the unsecured terminal, seven persons ate at the 24-hour Burger King where more than 100 chairs stood empty. A pushcart vendor cruised the lines, selling coffee, soda and snacks.
"My business is definitely not declining, though," said Robert Brown, who manages all six Burger Kings at BWI. "Now, one person buys four or five takeout meals and the whole family will eat in the lines."
Hudson News operation manager Hayat Mazhar said his sales are up. "People have more time to read, and they want to know the latest about what's going on."
Norman Hancock and his wife, from nearby Gambrills, arose at 3 a.m. to attend a family occasion in Mississippi.
They took an hour to check luggage before joining the security line at 6:32 a.m., where they waited 87 minutes to reach the metal detector and X-ray machine.
Southwest passengers joining the same line prior to 5:30 a.m. breezed through in 30 minutes while Pier C's line had over 450 people shuffling toward its four screening lanes. Pier C security is jammed before 6 a.m. but eases up later. That concourse is also used by American, Continental, Frontier, Lake, Northwest and two Southwest gates.
Steve Borth of Gettysburg, Pa., taking a weekend break from the Federal Emergency Management Agency's center to attend a pumpkin festival with sons, Michael, 7, and Jonathan, 5, arrived after 7 a.m., checked luggage at the curb and easily made his 9 a.m. flight to Albany, N.Y.
"Beautiful, no problem. BWI's much better than some other places I've traveled for FEMA since September 11th, including Dallas, Chicago and Atlanta," he said.
There was little grousing in lines even when latecomers gaming the system were sent to the front to catch imminent flights. But the front often was so far out of sight that those passengers were startled to find secondary lines of 50 or more in place there as well.
When half a dozen rushed up to Mr. Walters on Friday and said, "The guy back there said to come to the front of the line," the despairing Continental supervisor replied, "All these folks are in the front of the line."
The Times tallied 760 persons per hour moving through Pier B's five lanes, with Southwest screening about 152 per lane per hour during a period when 24 flights departed. Mr. White later said that on Oct. 20 BWI staff did a similar survey and found 167 passengers per lane per hour cleared onto Pier B in the 6-9 a.m. rush.
Pre-September 11 comparisons are few and far between.
In 1998, the Denver City Council claimed Denver International Airport could handle up to 7,000 people per hour with six lanes at Concourse A, a feat that would require a seemingly impossible "throughput" of one person per lane every 3.1 seconds.
Now, United has promised DIA it will get staff to keep open all 18 gates but not until tomorrow.
Run by US Airways, BWI's Pier D security generally moves smoothly. Frontier and TWA also share Pier D. Pier A, whose three gates are used only by United Airlines, sees virtually no delays.
"If you're ever going to fly anywhere from here, fly United," John Boranto of Frederick said when he saw no line to slow his one-day trip to Chicago.
Department of Transportation spokesman Bill Mosley said DOT received only 12 complaints about airline security screening in the last two weeks, not all of which focused on delays.
Airline executives said few travelers understand that airlines run the screening, using contractors who blame recruiting problems on wages under $10 per hour. At BWI, Globe Security and the Wackenhut Corp. have those contracts. A Wackenhut spokesman told The Times his company will not seek a renewal of a contract that won't let it offer the $12 hourly wage that qualified employees seek.

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