January 7, 2010 By DAVE MARCUS AND BETH WHITEHOUSE.
If you're planning to fly soon, here is a guide to what you can expect at the airport - and pointers to help you get through it with less hassle.
Marc Abbott flies about 40 times a year for his law practice in Long Beach, so he books flights after 9 a.m. to avoid the morning airport rush. Yet Eric Kaler, Stony Brook University provost and frequent flier, has his own strategy. He won't book the day's last flight. "If that flight is canceled, you're stranded till the next day." Figuring out techniques to cope with the increased security and confusion at airports has become the obsession of business and leisure travelers. Should you pay the extra fees to check bags and skip the carry-ons? Avoid wearing a belt that might trigger a metal detector? How do you beat the competing crowds to get on another flight if yours is delayed or - curses! - canceled? "Pretty soon you're going to have to fly naked if you want to be safe," said Kevin Schatzle, who is on the advisory board of Suspect Detection Systems, an Israeli company that makes airport protection technology. It hasn't come to that yet, but one thing is certain: Fliers need more time than ever to navigate through check-in lines and security screenings since the thwarted Christmas Day plane bombing attempt. While the federal government promises to tighten security at all domestic airports, experts say the real changes will come overseas.
Marie-Helen Maras, a security expert and criminal justice professor at Farmingdale State College, said the emphasis will be on screening passengers coming from 14 countries the U.S. government has linked to terrorism. "There's cause for concern but not for hysteria," said Maras, a former Navy security investigator. "If we want to be safe on a plane, we'll need to get used to being irritated or inconvenienced."
BEFORE YOU LEAVE HOME
1. GO ONLINE. Check the TSA and State Department Web sites - www.tsa.gov and travel.state.gov - to make sure you comply with all the latest regulations and advisories, says Schatzle. "Now they're going to be crazier with everything that's going on," agrees Penny Cuomo, owner of Sunset Travel in Bellmore and vice president of the Long Island Travel Agents Association.
2. CHECK DOCUMENTATION. Make sure the name on your reservation exactly matches what's on your identification. Although small differences shouldn't be problematic right now, consistency will help minimize your time in line. The TSA's Secure Flight program, phasing in this year, will soon require an exact match, plus extra information, such as your date of birth and gender.
3. CALL AIRLINE. Check for changes in departure and arrival times - but don't be surprised by additional delays. "We'll call three times and airlines tell us, 'It's on time ... on time ... on time,' and then it comes in three hours late," says Bob Howard, a vice president at Delux Transportation, a car service in Port Washington. Howard also warns that an airline's Web site may list one arrival or departure time, while a call center will give conflicting information.
What if I can't leave my seat?
Hit the call bell. Feign having a foreign object in your eye, which will bring the staff person close enough to your face and allow you to whisper, suggests Daniel Bowe, executive vice president of operations at Arrow Security in Bohemia.
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