Long Lines As Airports Tighten Security

Air travelers were ordered to throw out their suntan lotion and shampoo and waited hours in ever lengthening lines Thursday as airports ratcheted up security and delayed flights in the wake of a terror plot discovery in Britain.

In major U.S. airports, guards armed with rifles stood at security checkpoints, and passengers were met by signs warning that all liquids were now banned from carry-on luggage. Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said he would send the National Guard in to Boston's Logan Airport for the first time since the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

Security workers opened every carry-on bag that passed through one terminal at Baltimore/Washington Airport, and all the flights there were delayed.

"It's better alive than dead," said Bob Chambers, whose flight from Baltimore to Detroit for business meeting was delayed more than an hour. "It's inconvenient, but we'll make it."

The plot in Britain targeted flights from Britain to the U.S., particularly to New York, Washington and California on United Airlines, American Airlines and Continental Airlines Inc., a counterterrorism official said Thursday, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.

U.S. authorities raised the threat level to "red" for flights from Britain, the first time the highest threat of terrorist attack had been invoked since the system was created. All other flights were under an "orange" alert - one step below red.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said the plot appeared to have been engineered by al-Qaida, the terrorist group that hijacked two planes from Boston on Sept. 11, 2001, and flew them into the World Trade Center towers in New York.

Passenger arriving for flights Thursday and discovering the suddenly tightened security clogged the checkpoints as bags were searched, leaving long lines.

At Kennedy Airport in New York, Sonia Gomes De Mesquita, 40, of London, waited nervously to board a British Airways flight to London's Heathrow airport. Her family had urged her not to get on the plane.

"You wake up and what are you going to do?" she said. "The flight is today."

She said she checked all her belongings rather than risk having something confiscated. "I even checked in my book."

At Newark Airport in New Jersey, the security checkpoint line for Terminal B, home to most international flights, stretched the entire length of the terminal - roughly six football fields - and was barely moving.

Andra Racibarskas, of Chatham, was trying to get to Michigan to pick up her daughter from camp.

"Checking in was very easy. It took one minute curbside. It took one minute to get my boarding pass," she said. "This line is at least four hours long."

The security lines at Newark's Terminal C, where Continental bases its flights at the airport, was even worse. The crush of people brought to mind a chaotic rock concert.

"It's complete disaster and chaos," said Bill Federman, of Oklahoma City, who missed his Continental flight home because of the lines. "This has completely overwhelmed the airport's planning. I haven't seen anything this bad since 9-11."

The new ban on all liquids and gels from carry-on luggage - including toothpaste, makeup, perfume and suntan lotion - left people with little choice but throw away juice boxes, makeup and, for one passenger, even a bottle of tequila. Baby formula and medicines were exempt but had to be inspected.

Rather than packing toiletries in carry-ons, airport officials asked passengers to put them in checked baggage, which is screened by equipment that can detect explosives, said Phil Orlandella, spokesman for Boston's Logan International Airport.

In Atlanta, Brenda Lee said she was annoyed with the lines and having to remove items from her luggage. "I'm not sure it does what they want it to do," she said.

Lee, 52, a commercial real estate appraiser from Snellville, Ga., had to throw away her shampoo, but she said she was keeping her contact lens solution in her carryon luggage. "They're going to have to take it out. You want it out, you take it out."

"It's all for security, but some things go beyond security," she said.

At Boston's Logan Airport, Romney said additional screening stations were being set up at the airline gates and security was being tightened on the roads outside the airport.

Extra police and dog units were sent out overnight at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, where American Airlines is based, to patrol terminals and parking garages, airport spokesman Ken Capps said.

American canceled three London-bound morning flights from Chicago, Boston and New York to accommodate delays at London's Heathrow airport, spokesman John Hotard said. To balance the cancellations, the airline also dropped three afternoon or evening flights from London to U.S. cities, Hotard said.

The remaining 13 flights in each direction were expected to run from 1 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours late. The cancellations were due to scheduling delays and not because of direct threats to the flights, Hotard said.

Delta Air Lines spokesman Anthony Black said operations would continue normally and there would be no flight cancellations. But Delta was expecting delays on flights coming from the United Kingdom because of heightened security there, Black said.

In Chicago, the aviation commissioner, Nuria Fernandez, urged passengers to arrive early for flights and to consider not bringing carry-on luggage.

Homeland Security staff put up hastily printed signs at Dulles Airport outside Washington warning passengers in red capital letters: "No liquid or gels permitted beyond security."

In Los Angeles, airport spokeswoman Nancy Castles declined to immediately comment on whether airport officials have heightened security because of the raised threat alert, but she said the airport typically followed any special directives from federal authorities.

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Associated Press writers Jay Lindsay in Boston, Nathaniel Hernandez in Chicago, Daniel Yee in Atlanta, David Caruso in New York, Wayne Parry in Newark, N.J., and Laura Jakes Jordan and Katherine Shrader in Washington contributed to this report.


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