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Most passengers in Nevada accept new airport security measures

MARTIN GRIFFITH, Associated Press Writer

RENO — The nation’s new baggage-screening system passed its first major test at Nevada’s two largest airports, officials said.

Reno-Tahoe International Airport and McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas reported no major delays as thousands of post-holiday travelers flew out Sunday.

In Reno, passengers had to wait up to 35 minutes to check bags, down from 45 minutes when the new system began last week. The new screening added about 10 to 15 minutes to the wait, passengers said.

In Las Vegas, the new system added only a few minutes to the wait.

Sunday was expected to be the heaviest travel day since Jan. 1, when a congressional order went into effect requiring that every checked bag at about 400 of the nation’s commercial airports be screened for explosives.

Most passengers accepted the intensified screening, developed since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. They said they were pleased that the lines were moving quickly at the airline counters and bomb detection machines.

Eric Koller said it took 10 minutes to get on standby and have his luggage screened for a noon flight from Las Vegas to San Diego, where he works.

“I’ll be honest, I think it’s running smooth,” Koller said. “I expected a little bit of delay but obviously this has worked out great.”

Brad Turner, who was flying home to Dallas from Las Vegas on Sunday, said the slightly longer wait was worth it.

“Whatever it takes to keep it safe,” Turner said. “Everybody’s been real nice. The lines OK.”

In Reno, Brett Pauly and his wife, Stephanie Brommer, said it took 20 minutes to go through check-in. They were flying home to Seattle with their two young children after a visit with family in Reno.

“I think it’s awesome. It was super organized,” Brommer said. “I prefer to go on a plane knowing all the luggage has been checked.”

Her husband agreed: “I’m an outdoorsman and we have a saying, ‘safety first.’ I don’t mind the extra delay as long as it means safety.”

But other passengers complained, saying the new screening system makes for longer lines.

“I think it takes too long. The extra hassle isn’t worth it,” said Jeff Colyar of Glendale, Ariz., who was flying home with his family after a Lake Tahoe ski vacation.

“I used to be through the check-in line here in five minutes and now it takes 35 minutes. It adds a lot of stress. I have to fly a lot and I’m not looking forward to it,” he said.

Amy Heald, who was flying home to Boise from Reno, agreed: “The extra security is making it crazy. It takes so much longer now.

“I can understand the security concerns, but it seems to be going to the extreme. It’s like, ‘Let’s get paranoid,”‘ she added.

McCarran handles about 600 flights and 55,000 passengers on a typical Sunday. It has about 40 devices that root out explosive residue and 13 giant X-ray machines that check luggage for possible bombs.

“I wish it was like this every Sunday,” said Rosemary Vassiliadis, McCarran deputy director. “It’s a matter of everyone pitching in so there’s not any backup. I’m just going to boast, I thought it went very well.”

The Reno-Tahoe airport handles about 150 flights and 15,000 passengers on a typical Sunday. It has seven CTX bomb-detection machines and 36 hand-held explosive trace detection devices.

“We really are passing the test,” said Reno-Tahoe spokesman Adam Mayberry. “Last week, we had a few minor flight delays because of the new procedures. But we haven’t had any today. Our focus is moving the crowds quickly so they’ll want to fly again.”

Mayberry attributed the smoothness in part to the airport’s hiring of 14 passenger aides who direct check-in lines and answer questions.

They have joined about 300 Transportation Security Administration screeners at the Reno airport. McCarran has a team of nearly 1,000 TSA workers.

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Associated Press Writer Adam Goldman contributed to this story.