Airport security measures tightened
By By Thomas Tingle
Record Managing Editor
Luggage screening for explosives at Huntsville International Airport has begun and airport officials say local air travel increased in 2002.
According to Sam Bucy, deputy federal security director at the airport, training on the new screening machines began before Christmas. The actual screening for all passengers is now under way.
"Security screening went well during Thanksgiving and Christmas and having the new machines has brought some changes to the check-in procedures at the airport," Bucy said. "Passengers can no longer go through checkpoint with just an e-ticket itinerary. They must check in on the downstairs level of the airport and receive a boarding pass."
When checking in at the ticket counters, Bucy said passengers' checked luggage would now be screened for explosives before being turned into the airlines. Luggage will then be given to airline personnel while passengers proceed to check in and receive a boarding pass to go through the security checkpoint.
Passengers without checked luggage and an e-ticket can still do a quick check in on the E-Ticket machines if they are flying Continental, Delta or Northwest. US Airways will also be adding E-Ticket machines early next spring. The E-Ticket machines will print a boarding pass and those customers will not have to wait in the ticket counter check-in line. Bucy said passengers who have checked luggage and use the E-Ticket machines will still have to give their bags to the TSA agents for explosives screening before proceeding to the security checkpoint.
"The TSA also recommends carrying all food and beverages in carry-on luggage as they can set off alarms on some of the detection equipment," Bucy said. "Another change in the check in procedure is that travelers will no longer be able to check in on-line if they cannot get a boarding pass from that procedure."
Bucy said curbside check-in has been adapted to meet the new screening requirements. Passengers on American Airlines and Delta will be able to check in, have their bags checked and inspected and receive a boarding pass at the curbside location.
"We are working very closely with the TSA to meet all of their requirements," said Rick Tucker, executive director of Huntsville International Airport. The safety and security of our passengers and staff is our top priority."
Cindy Maloney, with the Port of Huntsville, said local air travel in and out of Huntsville International Airport was up in 2002. Maloney said more than 950,000 passengers used the airport over the year. She said it's been two years since the airport has seen more than one million passengers use the facility during a year, but she expects that air travel will continue to increase.
"About 67 percent of the air travel out of Huntsville International Airport is business travel," Maloney said. "Since Sept. 11, we've experienced a decrease in the number of passengers using the airport, but we are below the national average."
Maloney said although the official numbers for 2002 have not been released, more than 950,000 passengers came through the airport. Construction is under way for a new 10-minute parking lot directly in front of the terminal. Wider throughways in front of the terminal will be added. Construction will be completed this spring.