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Passengers Have Mixed Feelings About Increased Airport Security

July 27, 1996

CHICAGO (AP) _ Business travelers, who pack light and breeze through airports, seemed to get the brunt of the delays at O’Hare International Airport as tighter security measures kicked in around the nation.

The problem? Their laptop computers.

President Clinton on Thursday ordered new security measures for all domestic and international flights as a response to concern that terrorism might have brought down TWA Flight 800.

On Friday, security guards at O’Hare, the country’s busiest airport, were ordering travelers to remove their computers from their cases and turn them on to make sure they did not contain explosives.

Melissa Araya, an American Express employee en route from New York to San Francisco, tried to be patient.

``I think it’s fine,″ she said after she repacked her computer and zipped up the case. ``But it’s a pain to have to take your computer stuff out.″

A weary-looking Don Cox, who was heading home to Portland, Ore., after a business trip to Dayton, Ohio, was less understanding.

``It used to be you could get to the airport 15 to 20 minutes before your flight,″ he said. ``It’s frustrating that all this is because of some act of foolishness.″

The Federal Aviation Administration said the new measures, which took effect Thursday, end curbside baggage check-in on international flights and will bring more questioning of passengers in check-in lines and inspections of carry-on baggage.

At airports around the nation Friday, luggage was rifled and travelers questioned.

At Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport, which was already on alert because of the Olympics, no further security increases were visible, but travelers weren’t taking any chances.

``We planned on getting here three or four hours early to be sure,″ said Rich Hewitt, 33, of Toccoa, Ga., who was on his way to Jamaica on a church-sponsored evangelistic trip.

At Boston’s Logan International Airport, frequent flyer Milt Herbert of Acton, Mass., appreciated the extra security as he set off for St. Louis.

``To those who find the extra searches an invasion of privacy, I suppose they can find another means of transportation,″ Herbert said.

Few delays were reported at airports in Chicago, Atlanta, St. Louis and other cities, and airline representatives said most of the added security measures will have little impact on travelers.

At O’Hare, signs of increased security were abundant.

One newly posted sign asked passengers to be prepared to present photo identification and to arrive at their gate at least 30 minutes prior to departure or risk having their bags taken off the plane.

At New York’s Kennedy Airport, from which the ill-fated TWA jet had departed, no one without a ticket was allowed in the international terminals.

Inside the airport, few seemed upset by delays and more thorough searching of bags.

``Definitely the lines were longer, but the staff was courteous and tried to keep things running smoothly,″ said Marcia Simon, a New York resident heading to Los Angeles.

Travelers also should be advised to leave any sick jokes at home.

One passenger on a United Airlines flight at O’Hare, when questioned about his carry-on luggage Thursday, responded ``The one that looks like a bomb is in it?″ When the attendant told him it was wrong to talk about bombs on a plane, he became abusive, police said.

The man, 33-year-old Jamil Abdo of Brazil, was removed from the plane and charged with disorderly conduct. The flight was delayed for more than two hours.