Security demands patience

BWI advises travelers to arrive four hours early

September 16, 2001|By Stacey Hirsh | By Stacey Hirsh,SUN STAFF

Restrictions on international air travel were lifted yesterday at Baltimore-Washington International Airport and officials were asking all travelers to arrive at the airport four hours early, allowing time to get through long lines and beefed-up security.

Lines of people snaked through BWI yesterday - by mid-afternoon, more than 100 people were waiting to check in at American Airlines.

Heightened security measures accounted for much of the waiting. At one BWI security checkpoint, a wicker basket sat filled with razors, scissors and nail clippers - items now considered deadly weapons that were confiscated from carry-on bags.

"I'm glad they're doing the security," said Karen Calvert, who was on her way home to California yesterday. "I just wish they would have done it a long time ago."

Air travel was abruptly shut down Tuesday after hijackers boarded airplanes in Boston, Washington and Newark, N.J., crashing two into the World Trade Center towers in New York, one into the Pentagon and one into a field in Pennsylvania.

With the opening of Boston's Logan International Airport yesterday, Washington's Ronald Reagan National Airport was the only major U.S. airport still closed. Authorities have said that airport remains closed because of its proximity to federal buildings, including the Pentagon and the White House.

Private planes were still banned yesterday from flying within about 30 miles of Washington and New York City. And security was increased at airports around the country.

Curbside check-in has been abolished. Officers in black SWAT uniforms and police dogs patrolled the Boston airport yesterday, and federal marshals patrolled BWI.

"For security reasons, please keep all packages and luggage with you at all times," instructed a voice over the loudspeaker at BWI.

The added security meant more waiting.

"I'd rather wait in lines all day long and make sure everything's checked than to have something go wrong," said Matt Wijas, a Marine stationed in California who was in Fairfax, Va., last week visiting family.

His sentiment was echoed throughout the airport.

"If it means safer flights, I have no problem with it," said Ann Nickell, who was supposed to go home to Alabama on Tuesday afternoon.

Anxious to be home

Many travelers - and those waiting for them - were anxious to get home and spend time with loved ones after an exhausting and emotional week.

"As soon as she gets here, we're leaving. I just want to get her stuff and go," Collin Seebadan said as he waited at BWI for his girlfriend, who had been stranded in Chicago.

Calvert and her friend Kae Yates, also of California, had been in New York on vacation this week. They were scheduled to go home Wednesday night. Yesterday, they took a train to Baltimore to catch a plane.

Yon Kang waited at BWI for her family. They were on their way here from Korea when the terrorists struck, and their flight was diverted to Minneapolis, where they were stranded for five days.

And Jennifer Minarczik met her fiance, Adam Guy, at the airport. Guy, who spent Friday night on layover in Memphis, said he noticed tighter security at the airports. "A lot more questions, a lot more people were getting the wand," he said, referring to security metal detectors. "I got the wand treatment in Memphis."

About 400 flights had arrived or departed at the airport by 6 p.m. yesterday, far fewer than the 750 flights on a typical day.

Airlines feel pain

Airlines are reacting to the loss of business. Northwest and American Airlines were cutting schedules by 20 percent.

Continental Airlines announced yesterday that it would lay off 12,000 employees - more than a fifth of its work force - and cut its long-term flight schedule by 20 percent. Continental has seen the number of bookings drop drastically since Tuesday's attacks.

The Bush administration said yesterday that it would hold talks with airline executives who are hoping for assistance.

Safe but nervous

At BWI, although some travelers felt now is the safest time to fly because of heightened security, others were still frightened.

Ed Aufderheide of Gambrills arrived at the airport four hours before his flight yesterday. He was headed to Miami with his wife, Judy, for a cruise.

"We're anxious," he said.

"I'm nervous," his wife added.

"We wouldn't be human if we weren't," he said.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this article.

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