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"Packed Oakland airport pushes passenger lines outside"


 
Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Packed Oakland airport pushes passenger lines outside
By Paul T. Rosynsky
The Oakland (CA) Tribune


OAKLAND - Air travelers flying Southwest Airlines out of Oakland
International Airport during the next week should remember to bring two
things - identification and a warm coat.

The ID is to get on a plane.

The coat is to keep warm while waiting to check bags.

A combination of increased passengers, the federal government's stringent
screening procedures and an outdated, overused terminal has left patrons at
the airport waiting outside to check bags for Southwest flights.

At worst, lines to check bags occasionally have extended outside, along the
airport's curbside all the way to the Terminal 1 entrance and back again. In
those cases, some passengers have had to wait up to an hour to check bags.

The Transportation and Security Administration is partially at fault, as are
holiday gifts, airport officials say.

New screening guidelines established in the summer - which banned large
bottles of liquids, gels and aerosols in carry-on bags - has forced more
passengers to the baggage check-in line.

Holiday gift giving is also a culprit, as more passengers have more things
to pack into their suitcases.

A terminal designed to accommodate only half of the passengers it currently
does also adds length to the line.

"Currently, we don't have enough space in the bag check-in queuing area and
extending the lines outside, under canopies, is our only option at this
point," said Rosemary Barnes, an airport spokesperson. "We are aware of the
inconvenience to Southwest's passengers ... and continue to ask for their
patience."

As originally built, Terminal 2 was designed to carry about 4 million
passengers a year. Currently, more than 8.5 million pass through the
terminal each year.

It gets even more crowded during the holidays.

>From Dec. 20 to Jan. 3, at least 48,000 passengers are expected to pass
through Oakland International Airport, with about 60 percent using Southwest
Terminal 2, Barnes said.

While the airport was able to weave its passenger security lines inside a
new baggage claim building, there is no room inside for the bag check-in
line.

Airport officials believe completion of the Terminal 2 renovation this
summer will prevent a recurrence. That renovation will expand Southwest's
bag check-in area.

Until then, officials recommend arriving at the airport at least 90 minutes
before departure.

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