Tougher screening in place

Paul Clinton

JOHN WAYNE AIRPORT -- The top two airlines at the airport say they are

already complying with federal guidelines that take effect today

requiring the screening of all checked baggage.

The new requirements for airport security were put in place by

Congress on Nov. 19. The Aviation and Transportation Security Act was

established in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The new stepped-up screening won't interfere with the itineraries of

travelers, said Pete McDonald, the airport services vice president at

United Airlines.

"While the new federal requirements will provide an additional level

of baggage screening, our flights are scheduled to operate as usual,"

McDonald said in a statement. "Customers should not experience any

changes as part of United's 100 percent screening of baggage because the

technical part will happen 'behind the scenes' at airports."

American Airlines began screening all baggage Jan. 15, according to a

company news release.

Airport officials on Thursday referred inquiries to the airlines

operating out of John Wayne. Spokeswoman Ann McCarley declined to confirm

the airlines had implemented the new measures.

"I can't speak to any security questions," McCarley said. "It's the

carriers' responsibility to screen the passengers and bags."

All 11 carriers at John Wayne will be required to screen all baggage

starting today. They will use a machine put in place last year that

screens for bombs and other explosive devices.

That machine is owned by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The tougher screening, however, will be overseen by the Transportation

Security Administration, which was created as part of the November

security legislation. It also put screener workers on the federal

payroll.

The new screening measures are designed to tighten security, but not

to put the brakes on commerce.

"We have to ensure that the nation's aviation system is the safest and

most secure in the world," administration spokesman Hank Price said.

"Safety and security is the most important goal, but we understand

efficiency needs to be factored into it as well."

United and American both pushed for the new screening machine months

before terrorist attacks forced a massive revamp of the way airports

process travelers, McCarley said.

Before Sept. 11, American averaged about 190 departures a week out of

John Wayne. United averaged about 122 per week. Both carriers have since

cut about 20% of their fleets nationwide.

* Paul Clinton covers the environment and John Wayne Airport. He may

be reached at (949) 764-4330 or by e-mail ato7

paul.clinton@latimes.comf7 .

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