Students encounter more airport security, longer lines

GW students said they felt safe flying this weekend with new airline security measures in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Congress is currently debating heightened airport security, which could include placing plain-clothed armed federal marshals on flights, federalizing security personal at airports and installing new locks and barriers on cockpit doors.

Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta called for a new federal security agency under the auspices of the FAA at a press conference Wednesday.

Students said the already-implemented new security and congressional proposals add to their sense of safety.

“Security was pretty tight and I had to show up two hours early,” said freshman Cooper Wood, who flew from Baltimore-Washington International airport home to Kansas City last weekend. “I’m less worried about safety with the proposal for air marshals, and I don’t think people will sit there during hijackings in the future.”

Freshman Maria Bonificio said she was patted down after waiting in line for the metal detectors at BWI for an hour and half before flying home to Albany, N.Y., last weekend.

“I was nervous flying back to D.C., but I feel more secure now,” Bonficio said.

Students said security personnel at airports confiscated nail clippers, scissors and small knifes among other possible weapons. Nineteen hijackers who coordinated the Sept. 11 strikes used box cutters and knives to attack flight attendants and pilots to take over four commercial planes.

“I feel safe flying, and things seemed like they were getting back to normal,” said sophomore Corinne Reed, who flew from BWI to Providence, R.I., to go home to Massachusetts last weekend. “I was looking around the plane for the air marshal.”

Other students said the airport security checks need standards and they are annoyed by the long waits.

“I’m annoyed by the frivolity of taking away nail clippers,” junior Laura Barunas, who flew home from BWI to Manchester, N.H. “I really don’t think they are doing that much differently.”

“I had to show up two hours early for a 40 minute flight,” said junior Scott Taub, who flew from Washington-Dulles International in Virginia to New York City’s La Guardia Airport. “Right now (the security measures) are overkill. They need to institute standards, because right now it doesn’t look like (the security personnel) know what they are doing.”

First-year law student Pam Perry, who flew from Dulles to Boston, agreed.

“It took a longer time and they went through my laptop, but it was what I expected,” she said. “The checks were random, and nothing seemed systematic.”

President George W. Bush said he will not veto a Senate proposal calling for the federalization of airport security at 140 of the country’s biggest airports, according to The Washington Post. Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Ernest Hollings (D-S.C.) said making security screeners federal employees would improve security, because they would be better paid and better trained at a press conference Tuesday.

Chairman of the Internal Security Task Force for the Airline Pilots Association Dennis Dolan called for arming pilots at a Sept. 24 episode of CNN’s “Crossfire,” broadcast from GW’s Media and Public Affairs building.

Students said they agree with the increased security at airport checkpoints and federal air-marshals but see armed pilots as dangerous.

“No pilots should be armed; their job is to fly the plane,” said sophomore Ben Laste, who flew home to Milwaukee last weekend. “Metal detectors need to be improved, but the elimination of curbside check-in and other proposals seem like overkill.”

Overall, students who live a far away from D.C. said they see flying as essential and do not think terrorists will target planes in the future.

“I had no second thoughts about flying,” said sophomore Tal Viskin, although he cleared BWI security checkpoints with a Swiss Army knife in his bag on his way home to Boston last weekend.

“Terrorists won’t be attacking airlines the next time; they will find our next weakest link,” he said.

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