Passengers say new bomb detection system not a problem

RENO -- Passengers said new explosives-detection systems in the ticketing lobby of the Reno/Tahoe International Airport didn't hamper their holiday travel plans Wednesday.

Indeed, some said the extra baggage check made them feel safer as they traveled to and from their destinations.

"I felt much safer," said Celeste Webster, who flew in Wednesday. She and her family and were headed to her North Lake Tahoe cabin. Their bags were checked twice for explosives, she said. "I felt very good about flying, and it didn't take any longer."

Mario Barrera, 26, of Mexico City, said the extra checks went quickly, but it was a bit of a hassle.

"It was kind of bothering, if you're in a hurry," Barrera said. He was one of many who had their personal items picked through and viewed by scanners.

Travelers seemed busy during the usual New Year's Day rush, some taking pictures among the crowded lines as others shuffled through with skis, snowboards and mounds of luggage. One woman waited in the lobby to see if her friend had made it onto his flight, not expecting the delay of the extra checks, she said.

The federal Transportation Security Administration met its congressional mandate to begin screening all checked baggage at every U.S. airport by midnight Tuesday.

The Reno airport had seven large explosives-detecting machines with monitors and 36 smaller television-size devices running by Tuesday morning, said Adam Mayberry, airport spokesman.

All baggage is now either swabbed and tested at the ticket counter or fully scanned by one of the seven large machines. Either way, be prepared to have luggage contents removed and inspected at any time, screeners said.

"Be prepared for everyone to get checked in one way or another," said Melvin Smith, screening manager.

Steve Pansky, federal security director for the Transportation Security Administration, said 79 employees were hired over the past two weeks and other staff was reassigned to handle the extra checks in the lobby.

The machines take up about one-third of the lobby space, which leaves less room for passengers, Mayberry said. The airport hired temporary workers, who wore bright yellow shirts and hats to help "make sure passengers don't get confused," he said.

A 22-year-old Minden woman said her trip from Portland, Ore., home to the Reno area went smoothly, and she didn't notice a difference from when she left.

"I'm starting a new job tomorrow in the Legislature so I'm glad nothing went wrong," she said.


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