Stricter security screening possible at airport

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Airport security
Security was stepped up at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport Thursday morning.
MPR Photo/Mark Zdechlik

Airport officials say Minnesota passengers could face a second security screening of their carry-on bags at the gate.

Gov. Pawlenty
Gov. Tim Pawlenty Thursday announced that the Minnesota National Guard may help with screening passengers at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport. To the left is Mark Rosenow, chief of the airport's police force.
MPR Photo/Laura McCallum

Metropolitan Airports Commission spokesman Pat Hogan says the airport has begun secondary screenings on select flights. The screenings could be expanded to include every passenger on every flight, if required by the Transportation Security Administration.

If that occurs, Gov. Pawlenty says he may call up National Guard soldiers to help with the screening. He added that the state is well-prepared for a potential terrorist attack. He says more state patrol officers are on duty near the airport, and Hennepin County sheriff's deputies are patrolling the airport.

In the hours after the terrorist alert was issued, lines at security checkpoints at the Twin Cities airport were longer than usual.

Collecting banned items
Security workers at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport collected liquid and gel items that are no longer allowed in carry-on bags.
MPR Photo/Lorna Benson

Travelers waiting to pass through the screening points were not, however, stacked as deep as they were five years ago following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

At every checkpoint, airline employees tried to move things along by making sure travelers knew about the heightened security measures.

Mark Slayter, who lives west of the metro area in Norwood-Young America, was on he was to Salt Lake City for a business appointment. He ended up checking the bag he normally carries on to comply with the new "no liquids" rule.

Like many of the people at the airport, Slater was not necessarily happy about restrictions. But he took it in stride.

"I heard it all this morning on the way over here. Everybody's concerned about it, I'm sure," said Slayter. "I think we're in good shape, and I think we know what's going on and I am glad to hear about that. It seems like there's a sense of urgency -- I mean, you're out here, everybody's got their head on a swivel. I think they're paying attention."

Travels who were unable to repack newly banned items into checked luggage filed airport garbage cans with the contraband.

Discarded contraband
Items that passengers had to throw away included beverages of all kinds, makeup, shaving cream, lotion and eye drops.
MPR Photo/Lorna Benson

Airport employee Samson Getachew was busy removing the trash from the terminal.

"Not as usual, it's more garbage here. There is pop and some stuff like that," said Getachew.

Federal officials are asking not only that travelers remove liquids from their carryons. They want people to stick to the basics, and bring only items they really need through the checkpoints so that screeners can quickly search carry-on luggage.

They are allowing baby formula and medicine.

Ian Burk, who flew into the Twin Cities from Louisville early Thursday, said fellow passengers were talking about the alleged terrorist plot and the new carry-on restrictions.

"One lady talked to me about it a little bit because I hadn't actually heard the news report," said Burk. "It's amazing to see how quickly we responded ... in an organized fashion."

Jessica James.
Jessica James of Columbus, Ohio was angry that screeners threw away her $80 bottle of perfume.
MPR Photo/Mark Zdechlik

While most travelers seemed good natured about the new rules, some were angry.

Jessica James, who flew in from Columbus, Ohio, was aware of the reasons for the heightened screening, but found the ban on liquids unnecessary. It cost her an $80 bottle of perfume.

"I heard a lot of people say stuff about it. There was a guy that travels all of the time, and he had contact solution and he had to get rid of that. And he said, 'What's this all about?' I just don't understand it," said James.

By the middle of the day, officials were saying lines at checkpoints were no longer than they usually are on summer weekday.

Northwest Airlines, the dominant carrier at the Twin Cities airport, was suggesting that passengers forgo carry-on items altogether and check all their luggage, to minimize check-in time.

The airline also advised its passengers to arrive two hours before domestic flights and three hours before flights to international destinations.