Holiday travel smooth at MSP despite tight security

by Justin Ware

Last weekend travelers took to the skies and experienced few setbacks during the first major holiday since the Sept. 11 attacks, despite added security.

An increased number of Thanksgiving travelers gave the Metropolitan Airports Commission its first opportunity to test new security measures under heightened air traffic.

“It was a test for new security measures, and it went very smoothly,” said MAC spokesman Patrick Hogan.

“(The time it took to complete checks) was as good as it was last year at this time,” Hogan said, “even with the added security.”

Hogan said the average wait at one of the airport’s 14 safety checkpoints was about 20 minutes.

Northwest Airlines spokesman Kurt Ebenhoch said the airline’s addition of five checkpoints was a big part of the reason things went well during the holiday.

As far as the number of people flying over the weekend, Ebenhoch said, the numbers were encouraging.

“It was very smooth with load factors slightly higher than last year, although on a reduced flight schedule,” he said.

Hogan said planes were fuller than last year, but with the airline’s 20 percent reduction in the number of flights there were considerably fewer people in the air.

Kristine Smyth, a College of Liberal Arts sophomore, said her trips to and from Los Angeles
presented no problems.

“The airport was really not that bad,” Smyth said.

Smyth said she went through all the security checks she anticipated, including metal detectors and being patted down twice.

“I gave myself a lot of time,” she said.

The amount of time spent in security checks at Los Angeles was consistent with Hogan’s estimates for the time it took travelers at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

“It probably took me only about 20 minutes in Los Angeles,” Smyth said.

Despite the smooth travel over the holiday, the airlines are still facing many of the same troubles that have plagued them throughout the past two months.

Sun Country airlines announced Monday it would discontinue services to several major coastal destinations, including New York and San Diego.

The cutbacks will likely result in more layoffs from an airline that already reduced its Twin Cities workforce in September by 200 employees.

The Federal Transportation Department announced Tuesday that it might not be able to meet Congress-imposed security deadlines.

Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta said there are not enough employees, bomb-sniffing dogs or explosive-detecting machines to check all the bags before they are loaded on the plane.

The thorough checking of all baggage is part of the airline safety bill President George W. Bush signed earlier this month.

“We’re not going to be able to meet that by January,” Mineta said.

– The Associated Press
contributed to this report.

Justin Ware welcomes comments at [email protected]