Air travel is fundamentally safe, but passengers should be prepared for delays and higher ticket prices as a result of new security measures being instituted in the aftermath of a series of terrorist incidents, according to Transportation Secretary Elizabeth Hanford Dole.
"Until we feel (terrorism) is under control, there will be some waits and there will be some extra costs," Dole said in an interview this week. "I think it's a matter of people knowing they will have to be there earlier and exercise some patience."
The recent surge in terrorism involving airliners and airports has underscored the need to make security a top priority and to take every precaution, Dole said, adding, "We're hoping that what we've done is going to be a major step in handling the problem."
Already, the Federal Aviation Administration has announced a number of steps to increase airport security, ranging from increased inspection of carry-on bags to the elimination of curb-side check-in for international flights.
In addition, cargo, mail and freight will be held 24 hours, X-rayed or physically inspected, and this will mean slower mail delivery, Dole said.
Late Frankfurt Flight
U.S.-bound travelers at foreign airports have already begun to encounter travel delays as baggage checks have intensified. A flight Tuesday from Frankfurt to Washington, for example, was delayed more than an hour while checked luggage was X-rayed or matched with passengers.
A total of 336 people have died and 85 have been injured in six known or presumed terrorist incidents within the past three weeks, including the crash of an Air-India plane off Ireland, the hijacking of TWA Flight 847 to Beirut and bombings at the Tokyo, Frankfurt and Rome airports and at an airline ticket office in Madrid.
In response to a request by President Reagan, Dole has sent the White House a classified report on airports worldwide with recommendations on which should have an urgent security review. But in the interview, Dole sought to dispel any fear of flying by the public.
"I think the system is fundamentally safe, and it is getting safer," she said, adding that the new security measures "are certainly going to help."
Vacation travel generally has not been affected by the increase in terrorism, though some travelers are rerouting themselves around Athens, site of the TWA hijacking, according to travel agent Joe Goddard of Travelworld in Arlington, Va.
'Ought to Listen'
Dole warned passengers to heed State Department travel advisories, saying, "When the government puts out a travel advisory, as they have done on Greece, then people ought to listen and take that into account when they make their travel plans."
The transportation secretary reiterated her concern that acts of terrorism have become a global problem, and she emphasized the need for international cooperation to eliminate safe havens for terrorists at foreign airports such as Beirut.
On Tuesday, in response to the TWA hijacking, Dole's department banned the sale in the United States of any airline tickets that include Lebanon on the itinerary and suspended the authority of Middle East Airlines, the Lebanese carrier, to serve this country.