- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 16, 2002

DENVER (AP) More airline passengers could find themselves standing in line or sitting on planes delayed at the gate when a federal law requiring the screening of all checked baggage for bombs takes effect Friday.
The law requires airlines to use any of four methods: hand searches, bomb detection machines, bomb-sniffing dogs or the matching of every piece of luggage to a passenger on board a plane.
Currently, less than 10 percent of the 1.4 billion bags flown in domestic airliners' holds annually are screened for explosives by such methods.
For security reasons, airline officials declined to comment on how they plan to comply on Friday. But airport officials throughout the country said most airlines apparently will match bags.
The technique is designed to prevent someone from checking a bag with a bomb and never boarding the aircraft. The approach already is used on international flights.
The precaution means that if a passenger fails to board a plane, or gets off just before takeoff, airline workers will have to climb into the hold to remove his or her luggage. That could create delays in pulling away from the gate.
The measure would also fail to stop a suicide bomber. In addition, plans call for requiring the bag match to be done when a passenger first boards a plane, and not done a second time for a connecting flight, said a government source, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
Passenger advocate David Stempler, president of the Air Travelers Association, said that concession would mean only an incremental improvement in security.
But he said it could go a long way toward reducing the possibility of long check-in lines.
"Direct checking would cause enormous lines and delays for passengers at a time when we're trying to get people back on airplanes and get the airlines healthy again," Mr. Stempler said. "Long lines at airports would have turned a lot more people away from air travel."
The baggage searches could also contribute to delays. For example, passengers will have to be present during hand searches of their luggage, Denver airport spokesman Chuck Cannon said.

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