- The Washington Times - Friday, August 11, 2006

Security lines at the region’s three major airports moved briskly yesterday as travelers learned more about the type of personal items being banned on commercial flights.

“I saw the news this morning and they were interviewing women at [Washington Dulles International Airport] who were crying because they had to throw away their Chanel makeup,” said Christine Cassidy of Columbia, Md., as she waited to go through security at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport yesterday. “I said, ‘That’s not going to be me.’ ”

Lines at security checkpoints stretched throughout airport terminals across the country Thursday after federal officials banned passengers from carrying items such as beverages, liquids, gels and toothpaste in their carry-on luggage.

The new precautions were prompted by the arrest of 24 persons by British officials in connection with a plot to blow up as many as 10 planes headed to the United States.

Ticket holders getting ready to board flights Thursday discarded toiletries, drinks and expensive items like perfume and cosmetics in designated trash bins, filling them to the brim.

“We understand this is an imposition, an inconvenience,” Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said yesterday at a press conference at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. But “certainly the people I’ve talked to today walking around the airport seem to be appreciative of the [efforts] we’re taking.”

DHS also elevated the country’s threat level to “high” for all commercial flights within or destined for the United States, and to “severe” for commercial flights originating in Britain and bound for the United States.

Airport officials said security lines smoothed out yesterday because most passengers had heard about the ban through press reports, agency and airline announcements or other sources.

“From our perspective, it looks like the lines have returned to what they would normally look like on a typical travel day,” said Rob Yingling, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which operates Reagan and Dulles airports.

Transportation Security Administration officials said the agency yesterday operated at the same staffing levels as it did last week. Agents conducted random gate inspections, and passengers on flights bound for the United Kingdom also were checked at their flight gates before boarding.

Still, Mr. Chertoff said the flow of security lines yesterday was “generally positive,” and that officials would announce some changes to the carry-on baggage policy in the near future.

At BWI’s Concourse D yesterday, the security line still stretched around walls and down hallways, but moved swiftly.

“At this point, operations are near normal,” BWI spokesman Jonathan Dean said, noting that airline employees also were performing visual checks at boarding gates to make sure passengers did not board planes with any liquids.

“[But] we are certainly encouraging customers to allow enough time for the check-in and the security processes. Customers shouldn’t try to cheat the 90-minute guideline for domestic flights,” he said.

Miss Cassidy, 30, said she placed her purse in her checked baggage and arrived for her flight to Atlanta 90 minutes early to make sure she avoided problems.

“This is my luck that this happened the day before I’m supposed to travel,” she said. “But I’m just glad they caught the guys.”

Nick Barton, another passenger in the BWI line, said he arrived two hours early for his flight to Tampa, Fla., and that the new ban on cosmetic-type items didn’t really affect him as much as others.

“I usually don’t travel with those kinds of things anyway,” said Nick, 16.

Meanwhile, D.C. officials continued to implement extra security precautions in the city because of the foiled threat.

Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said the department would remain on high alert for now, and that the 12-hour tours of duty for special counterterrorism units probably will end in the next day or two.

The department also has activated its Joint Operations Command Center and network of 19 closed-circuit television cameras downtown, although officials said the measures are merely a precaution.

“I don’t think you ever take for granted that there aren’t more types of plots that could be out there,” Chief Ramsey said.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide