Passengers should be ready for more delays at airport-security checkpoints next weekend when airlines will be required by law to inspect all checked baggage for explosives, a top Republican on the Senate aviation subcommittee said yesterday.
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas said people will have to wait longer in lines until airport security gets a handle on the new baggage-match system.
“This is going to cause a backup in many airports,” Mrs. Hutchison said on CNN’s “Late Edition.” “It’s going to cause inconveniences as we work through this process.”
The new aviation security law, passed in response to the September 11 terrorist attacks, requires all airlines by Friday to have security systems in place to inspect all checked bags for explosives.
“We are trying to screen in some way every bag that goes on an airplane,” Mrs. Hutchison said. “The major vulnerability we have in aviation security today is checked baggage, and we’re trying to address that.”
The new system could include sending the bags through explosive-detection machines or having them inspected by hand or bomb-sniffing dogs. The system also will make sure that no bag is put on a plane unless the bag’s owner also boards.
“All of this will be time-consuming, and there will be a time period in which people are going to have even longer waits than we are used to now,” Mrs. Hutchinson said.
The Transportation Department is expected to announce this week how airlines will meet Friday’s deadline because airlines don’t have the necessary equipment, including X-ray machines, to screen the luggage.
Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta said earlier that it would take until 2009 to get the machines in place at all airports throughout the country.
Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, said on “Late Edition” that the Friday deadline shows the Transportation Department that Congress wants to have the security measures put in place quickly.
“When [Mr. Mineta] said it would take until 2009 to get these machines all in place, well, that sent a shiver down my spine, and my guess the whole air transportation industry’s spine,” Mr. Schumer said. “People want security in their travel, and that’s the only thing that would bring travel up again.”
Meanwhile, the Federal Aviation Administration ordered airlines to install stronger cockpit doors by April 9, 2003. The doors are designed to prevent terrorists from getting into the cockpit, as was done on the four hijacked planes on September 11. After the attacks, airline companies installed bars on the doors as a temporary measure.
The new doors are expected to cost airlines between $92.3 million and $120.7 million over 10 years, including increased fuel costs resulting from the extra weight.
The new rules affect all passenger planes with 20 or more seats and all cargo planes with cockpit doors. The doors will continue to be locked from the inside.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.