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"Airport world tough - again"
Monday, August 21, 2006
Airport world tough - again
In wake of foiled plot, guns, troops and no bottled water
By Mason Stockstill
The Inland Valley (CA) Daily Bulletin
ONTARIO - It's a new world at the airport --again.
National Guard troops with guns searching passengers. Increasingly longer
lines to check baggage. And -- gasp --no bottled water.
Ever since the nation's terror alert was raised Aug. 10 following a foiled
terror plot involving flights from the United Kingdom to the United States,
passengers at airports here have had to readjust themselves to a new set of
standards for air travel.
"All we have is a planning forecast of seven to 30 days," said Maj. Dan
Markert of the California National Guard, adding that individual airports
have most of the say on how long troops will remain.
The National Guard is assisting with security efforts at seven airports
throughout the state, including Ontario International Airport. The other
airports are in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, San Diego, Orange
County and Burbank.
Likewise, there's no official timetable for how long the new restrictions on
liquids and gels in carry-on baggage will remain in place.
The Transportation Security Administration has altered the ban several times
-- for example, non-prescription liquid medicines are now allowed, as long
as it's less than four ounces.
The restrictions have prompted more travelers to check baggage on their
flights, rather than simply carrying everything they need with them into the
Southwest Airlines doesn't have an official tally, but spokeswoman Whitney
Eichinger said passengers checking bags are up about 25 percent.
"That's been the feel from our groups who are working most closely with our
bags," Eichinger said. Southwest is the largest carrier in terms of
passengers at ONT.
Because of long lines to check in baggage and the potential for more
scrutiny during the passenger screening process, airlines are advising
travelers to arrive at the airport two hours prior to their departures.
The new airport procedures are reminiscent of the changes across the country
and the world in the weeks and months following the Sept. 11, 2001,
Prior to 9/11, passenger screening ranged from strict to nonexistent, and
people without plane tickets could walk freely throughout airports' terminal
and gate areas.
But it's more than just the higher level of security that's changed in the
aftermath of the recent arrests in Britain. Many travel industries are now
taking steps to pick up the slack in terms of what travelers can and can't
bring with them.
For example, Avis rental cars at 25 U.S. airports now come with free packets
of toothpaste and mouthwash --which many travelers had to discard at
airports after they were banned in carry-on bags.
"It's the least we can do after a long day of travel and losing products
that you've paid for," said Tonia Elrod, a spokeswoman for Procter & Gamble,
the Cincinnati-based maker of household products that donated the items.
Additionally, some high-end hotel companies are adding similar complimentary
items to their usual offerings of shampoo and soap.
Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, for example, began giving customers free bottled
water and contact lens solution. Omni Hotels has stocked up on cosmetics,
including hair gel and moisturizers.
"We were saying, 'Our guests are going to be arriving at the end of a very
stressful day,' " said Omni spokeswoman Christine Connelly. "In terms of the
cost, it's not about the money. It's about doing the right thing."
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