Wary travelers return to airports despite new security

Travelers are filtering back to airports as consumers regained confidence in air travel and returned to the gates in numbers reminiscent of industry standards before the Sept. 11 attacks.

Some airports are beginning to loosen security standards as the number of passengers increased nearly 20 percent last week.

“(Sunday and Monday), we’ve seen much better numbers at the terminals,” said Jim Welna, director of public safety at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

The Federal Aviation Administration lifted the ban on curb-side baggage check-in Sunday, but increased baggage handling security.

While some airports brought back skycaps (curbside baggage handlers), MSP airport still won’t allow baggage checking outside the terminal.

Welna said only Northwest Airlines has the proper equipment necessary for the FAA to allow passengers to check baggage at terminal entrances – other airlines operating out of MSP airport lack required equipment including special video monitors and bar-coded luggage tags.

Some travelers are growing impatient with the
additional time new security measures require.

“I think it is annoying that they go through your bags,” said Dianna Merek, a nurse from San Diego.

Merek said she understands reasons behind the added security, but thinks some of the guidelines hurt the airports more than help them.

“It’s bad for the terminal businesses,” she said.

Merek used to visit with friends while waiting for flights in the terminals, but FAA regulations now restrict concourse access to ticket-carrying passengers only.

“It’s empty in there,” she said.

Guidelines aside, air travel is slowly increasing.

“It was pretty much normal for this time of year,” an Icelandair ticket agent said of last weekend’s traffic.

To increase consumer confidence in Minnesota-based Northwest Airlines, Gov. Jesse Ventura will fly Tuesday to New York on Northwest Flight 502.

“We hope through the governor’s actions to influence people that it’s good to get back in the swing of things,” said John Wodele, Ventura’s communications director. “It’s safe to fly again.”

Merek said she felt the impact of more air traffic after attempting to switch a Monday afternoon flight. She couldn’t because all other flights were booked.

A traveler who wished to remain anonymous said she feels safe because she assumes another terrorist attack would not involve an aircraft.

“I don’t think Minneapolis would be struck,” she said. “It
doesn’t have the economic or symbolic impact as New York.”

But some passengers are still skeptical of air travel.

“If I hadn’t heard some of the things I’ve heard, I would feel safe,” said Chuck Niederriter, a Gustavus Adolphus College physics professor.

Niederriter said he is wary of flying after hearing of some passengers who tried to bring items like small knives on planes.

Welna said because air travel is so important in today’s society, last week’s increase doesn’t surprise him. “Flying is the fabric of our life.”


Justin Ware welcomes comments at [email protected] or (612)627-4070 x3231