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There will be more questions asked, more ID cards studied, more luggage opened as Americans take to the skies this holiday season facing increased airport security.

"There will be a little bit higher level of intrusion, as far as how they're being scrutinized," says Capt. Steve Luckey, chairman of the national security committee for the Air Line Pilots Association.The extra passenger ID checks, parking restrictions and luggage screening that have been put in place may be only a small part of what is to come: Possible measures include X-ray strip searches and small chambers where machines will sniff people for explosives.

Salt Lake International Airport spokeswoman Barbara Gann said the heightened security shouldn't cause delays if travelers come prepared. All Salt Lake passengers age 18 and older will be asked for a photo ID when they check in. If they don't have one, their bags may be searched by hand - and that can take awhile.

"It doesn't take a lot of time if people bring their photo ID," Gann said. "A lot of people don't have it. They're not driving their car so they leave them, or they don't have ID for their children who are 18."

Gann said people traveling to international destinations, including Canada, should know they won't be allowed to check in at the curb but must carry their luggage inside the terminal to a check-in window.

The question facing airline, airport and government officials across the country is how much more security are Americans willing to take?

"Security has to address the perceived threat," says Lyle Malotky, a Federal Aviation Administration security specialist.

That means passengers will accept only as much inconvenience as they consider necessary. Attention was riveted on airport security after TWA Flight 800 blew up in July and killed 230 people.

The cause of that disaster remains unresolved, but the intervening time - and the lack of proof of terrorist activity in the crash - have caused airport security to slip in the attention of travelers.

"We're a crisis-oriented society," Luckey said. "Right after TWA it spiked up, but Americans are conditioned to be forgiving and forgetful in a hurry."

Yet security in the air still worries industry and government officials struggling to strike a balance between safety and inconvenience.

Take for example a flight last year from Frankfurt, Germany, to Moscow, via Warsaw, Poland.

After Warsaw-bound passengers left the plane, Polish police came aboard and had remaining passengers identify each piece of luggage stored in the overhead racks. Satisfied that no one had left a bomb aboard, they let new passengers on and the plane took off.

Such an encounter certainly increases security, but regulators must consider whether Americans heading from Washington to San Francisco with a stop in Pittsburgh are willing to undergo such a hassle.

"I really don't see that happening" in this country, said Luckey. Instead, he foresees "a lot of high tech stuff coming out."

Keeping people from bringing weapons aboard is the focus of much research.

Waiting in the wings are machines that could electronically strip-search each passenger - if Americans would put up with such an intrusion on privacy. Also uncertain is whether people would accept exposure to X-rays on a regular basis. Other systems can chemically sniff for bombs and guns.

Flight lists also will be matched with lists of known terrorists compiled by intelligence and law enforcement agencies. Similar methods have been used in drug-interdiction efforts in recent years.

For now, the Federal Aviation Administration is urging people who have not flown recently to give themselves plenty of time, because things have changed.



Securing the skies

Heading into the holiday travel season, airport security is certainly higher than it was last year, and several additional measures are under consideration. Current restrictions:

1. Curbside baggage check-in won't be permitted for international flights.

2. Checked baggage may head straight for a machine like the CTX 5000, currently being tested in a few airports. Like a CAT scan, it photographs contents of a bag and slices the image into several pieces, pinpointing plastic and exposing any explosives.

3. Officials will ask more questions of passengers and conduct more thorough searches of carry-on luggage.

4. Passengers may be asked at several junctures for photo identification. Guards are on the lookout for unattended luggage.


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