Mid-Continent screenings keeping pace

Frank Mwanga and his wife, Belinda, had heard that increased security could push airport delays beyond what's normal for traveling during the holidays.

So they arrived Monday at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport a full three hours before their 2 p.m. flight to Dallas.

"I like to follow the rules," Frank Mwanga said. "I kept hearing we need to get here early."

Such warnings have been prominent since airport security was heightened following the botched attempt to blow up an airliner on an Amsterdam-to-Detroit flight on Christmas Day.

American and United airlines have asked passengers to arrive at Mid-Continent two hours prior to departure for domestic flights and three hours for international flights, said Valerie Wise, the Wichita Airport Authority air service and business development manager.

But Wise said the time it takes for passengers to get through screening at Mid-Continent hasn't changed much since the Christmas incident.

"Keep in mind it's also the holidays," she said.

"It's really not taking any more time than you would expect for this time of the year."

The busiest times are still early in the morning. Saturday's longest wait to clear security was 20 minutes and Sunday it was 16 minutes, Wise said.

At midday Monday, only a handful of passengers were waiting in the screening line.

The Mwangas had quickly moved through the ticketing process and were waiting for their flight to be called before going to the security checkpoint.

"I'd rather get here a couple of hours early and be sure that the people I'm boarding with are safe," Frank Mwanga said.

Andrea McCauley, a Dallas-based spokeswoman for the Transportation Security Authority, said the agency is also recommending passengers arrive two hours prior to departure for domestic flights.

"It's better to have too much time than not enough," she said. "If you're early, have a cup of coffee and relax."

Wayne Dillon, a frequent business traveler from Hutchinson, stuck with his normal routine Monday by arriving at Mid-Continent 1 1/2 hours before his afternoon flight to Cleveland.

He said he also plans to maintain his usual pattern of arriving up to 2 1/2 hours prior to departure at airports in such cities as New York and Dallas.

"The delays will likely happen more at airports that have a lot of international flights," Dillon said. "I'm really not anticipating delays here."

At the same time, Dillon said he has found security stricter at smaller airports like Wichita and Des Moines.

"But they run things pretty smoothly here," he said.

Federal officials aren't discussing the specifics of new security steps.

According to the TSA, additional screening measures — seen and unseen — may include explosives-detecting dogs, more law enforcement, gate screening and behavior detection. The agency said the new steps will vary from one airport to another.

At this time, passengers don't need to do anything differently to prepare for screening on domestic flights, the agency said.

In-flight security already has been eased after a two-day clampdown, airline officials familiar with the matter told the Associated Press.

At the captain's discretion, passengers may once again have blankets and other items on their laps or move around the cabin during the tail end of a flight. In-flight entertainment restrictions have also been lifted.

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