- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 10, 2006

12:06 p.m.

Passengers at the region’s major international airports suddenly faced long lines and major flight delays today as U.S. authorities declared the highest-ever security alert for commercial planes after the discovery of a terrorist plot aimed at airlines from Britain to the United States.

Early arrivals to Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and Dulles International Airport outside Washington found the airports at full alert.

At Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, airport employees handed out fliers to passengers informing them of the new restrictions. In bold letters, they warned: “Passengers may not have liquids or gels of any size at the screening checkpoints or in the cabin of the aircraft.” Exceptions, however, were being made for baby formula, breast milk and juice - but only if a small child was present.

Airport employee Nadia Sasso said some passengers weren’t welcoming the latest inconveniences in air travel. “They’re kind of furious,” she said.

Leslie Lorenz, 42, was unaware of the new rules until she arrived at the airport for a flight home to Kansas City. “I’ll have to replace a ton of stuff,” she said before crouching down on the ground to empty her bag of contact lens solution and hair products, including hair spray she said cost her $15.

“I should have taken that flight last night,” said Ms. Lorenz, who was in Washington in business for her telecommunications company.

Confiscated items were being placed in gray plastic trays. One contained roll-on deodorant, toothpaste, shaving gel, mouthwash and an organic lemon grass hairspray. All would be thrown in the trash.

Lines at National were relatively short in the midmorning.

At BWI, the line to pass through domestic security stretched for several hundred yards, through much of the domestic terminal and into the international terminal before looping back again toward a security gate. Armed transportation authority police officers stood at the checkpoints.

Passengers were told either to check their carryon bags or throw away any liquids in them - including perfume, cologne, suntan lotion and shampoo. Security workers were opening every carryon bag.

Signs posted at check-in points listed items that won’t be allowed on the plane, including items such as toothpaste, sun screens, shampoo, perfume or cologne. Solid deodorants were OK. Prescription medicine OK as long as name on label matches ID, passengers were told.

Passengers seemed to understand the reason for the delay and were resigned to the inconvenience.

“It’s better alive than dead,” said Bob Chambers, who was flying to Detroit for a business meeting. “It’s inconvenient, but we’ll make it.”

Mr. Chambers said the only complaint from passengers were rumors that some had cut to the front of the line. At first, there were not enough police officers present to monitor that.

A Transportation Security Administration screener at BWI airport who only gave his first name, James, because he wasn’t sure he was permitted to speak to a reporter, described today as the most chaotic day he’s seen. He said the situation was worse when he began his shift at 4:15 a.m. because passengers weren’t aware of the restrictions.

“When we started, they didn’t have a lot of warning. It was a lot more difficult,” he said. “Now the airlines are warning people. It’s getting easier now.”

J.D. Dowtin, who was planning to fly to St. Louis on a 10:30 a.m. flight, said he heard about the security alert while driving to the airport. He tried to adjust his carryon baggage accordingly.

With only two international flights scheduled for the morning, the line through international security was shorter, but just as slow.

Eric Henlon, of Columbia, Md., had been waiting for two hours in the security line hoping to board a flight to Montego Bay, Jamaica. The flight was supposed to depart at 8:35 a.m. but by 9:40 a.m. Mr. Henlon had just reached what would ordinarily be the start of the security line. He said he was told the flight would not depart before he got through security, “or so they say.”

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