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The Daily Tar Heel

Holiday Traffic Back to Normal at RDU

A random computer process chooses "selectees," whose bags and personal items are searched before they board.

The U.S. Airways customer service supervisor at Raleigh-Durham International Airport, who asked to be called Shelia A., said business has risen since an initial drop after Sept. 11. She added that "compared to last year's Thanksgiving weekend we had as many passengers this year or maybe more."

Barbara Matukaitis, the lead counter agent for American Airlines, also said that the airline's passenger loads were heavy this weekend. "We have had as many (people) as last year," she said.

This weekend's travelers not only met larger crowds but also tighter security measures than were seen even in the wake of the terrorist attacks.

Passengers at RDU heard the constant whistle of police officers and saw a scattered number of National Guard troopers standing in full uniform with guns in their arms.

President Bush boosted airport security by requiring more National Guard troopers at airports in time for the holiday.

The holiday weekend's travelers reacted differently to these measures.

"It took me about an hour and a half to get through the security of Nashville," said Tim Morris, a Southwest Airlines passenger flying from Nashville, Tenn. "My bags were checked three times, and everyone seemed a little more quiet in the airplane than before," Morris said.

Another Southwest passenger, Madhu Arya, who traveled from San Diego to RDU, said she had a positive experience with the airline and the overall security in the airports she visited.

Beverly Morris, who was returning to Cincinnati, said she will continue to travel as long as her airline is Delta.

Morris said she had no problem at all with airport security. "It is a little different to see soldiers around, but they are a comfort since we were on board of an airplane on September 10," she said.

Shelia A. said the attacks prompted RDU officials to call for these new security measures: Only ticketed passengers are now allowed to go in the gates, all passengers must show valid identification, and the carry-on policy now allows only one bag and laptop per passenger.

There are at least 20 National Guard troopers in the airport, and passengers are being asked to arrive two hours before departure, she said.

Shelia A. also said delays at the ticketing lines do occur, but they depend on the number of staff the airline has available.

People also can be chosen as "selectees," which could also slow down the process, she continued.

Selectees are chosen randomly by a computer, and their bags and personal items have to be searched before they board the plane. "A lot of people are grateful for (the selectee process)," she said.

Lewis Perry, an American Airlines passenger, said he travels every week because of business and noticed that recently airports across the country have been less busy than normal.

But Perry said he also has noticed additional security checkpoints and believes they will act as a deterrent for possible terrorists. "They take more time at security checks," he said.

But Perry said he is concerned that the airlines are inconsistent with some luggage. He said that when his luggage was lost, it showed no signs of being checked by security. "The last two times that this has happened to me the locks in my bag were unopened, which means they weren't searched."

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