Security lines running smoothly at MSP airportby Elizabeth Dunbar, Minnesota Public Radio,
Mark Zdechlik, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — Passengers might notice more police officers and bomb-sniffing dogs at the Twin Cities airport, but security procedures are largely the same three days after a man tried to blow up a Northwest Airlines jet bound for Detroit, officials said Monday.
Long lines are expected at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, but it will have more to do with the busy holiday travel season than with additional security measures, airport spokesman Pat Hogan said.
The Transportation Security Administration has called for more pat-downs and bag searches for international flights arriving in U.S. cities. Passengers on those flights must also stow all personal items for a time before the plane lands.
But general security measures haven't changed for domestic flights, so while some passengers in the Twin Cities might see extra layers of security, others won't notice a difference, Hogan said.
"We try to keep things shaken up and changing so nobody can predict what it is that we're going to be looking at," he said.
The incident on Christmas Day happened on a Northwest flight between Amsterdam and Detroit, a Northwest hub. Even though MSP is a Northwest hub with regular flights to and from Amsterdam, Hogan said security procedures at MSP will be similar to other airports.
"It was a matter of chance that it happened on a Northwest flight. It could have happened on any airline," he said.
Jannie Flowers and her husband just flew into the Twin Cities from North Carolina. As they collected their luggage she said it was business as usual at the security check point.
She thought it would take a long time to clear security under the circumstances but says it ended up going very quickly and that it was not as thorough as it probably should have been.
"My husband was saying how he had a pair of scissors -- he cuts hair -- in his backpack that no one noticed," Flowers said. "I mean things like that just happen to get by security."
Airport security enhancements have been evolving since the 9-11 terror attacks. Following the shoe bombing attempt in late 2001, security personal began requiring passengers to remove foot ware for screening at checkpoints.
Some say this latest incident underscores the need for more thorough screening to include more pat downs and possible full body scans.
Whole body imaging allows security screeners to see through clothing. It's expensive technology that's being tested at several US airports. Critics say it violates people's privacy. Supporters say it's much quicker and is far less invasive than hand pat downs.
Flowers says it's probably time to notch it up another level even if that next level would compromise her privacy.
"I think makes sense. I don't bring anything on the plane that I know was not allowed you know what I mean so I wouldn't have a problem with a body scan."
Traveler Alex Coon of Pennsylvania says something more clearly needs to be done. He too would have no problem submitting to a body scan.
"You sacrifice privacy to be safe. So I mean ultimately you would be safe so I would do it."
Unlike Jannie Flowers, Coon said he did notice extra security. He says he flies a lot without having his carry on luggage hand searched. That was not the case today.
"I've nothing abnormal. I have a camera and an MP3 player and they checked everything in my bag. I thought from traveling a lot that was different."
Federal officials are urging people not to avoid flying but they say domestic and international travelers should allow extra time for check-in given heightened security measures.
Some international flights to the Twin Cities have been delayed since Friday, including two Northwest flights on Monday. A flight from Amsterdam was running about 45 minutes behind schedule, while a flight from Tokyo was estimated to arrive more than three hours late.
The Tokyo flight was late because of a maintenance issue that forced the flight to switch to a different plane, but no reason was given for the tardy Amsterdam flight. A second flight coming in from Amsterdam was scheduled to arrive a few minutes early.
Aviation security experts have said the man who tried to use explosives on the Northwest flight to Detroit should have at least faced additional security screening to board and that officials failed to act on at least two warning signs: He paid for the ticket with cash and had only a small carry-on bag.
"Those should have been the red flags and they were not caught," said George Novak, director of safety, borders and security at InterVISTAS, a transportation consulting firm based in Washington, D.C.
Novak said he expects passengers will see longer wait times at airports and more secondary security screenings.
"For a period of time there will be some unpredictability and passengers should be ready," Novak told MPR's Midmorning.
Besides dogs, pat-downs and special security machines that trace particles in the air might have been able to detect the explosives the man carried onto the Amsterdam-Detroit flight. But it would be impossible to screen every passenger that way, Novak said.
These screening methods, they are time consuming and they are expensive," he said.
(MPR's Kerri Miller contributed to this report.)
Elizabeth Dunbar is a general assignment reporter for MPR News.