Tighter Security

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mid the concern about security delays at airports, little attention has been paid to the possibility that passengers bound for cruise ports may be in jeopardy of missing the boat.

Barbara Arendt, a cruise specialist with Cruise Planners of Lincoln, Neb., worries that the new federal rules requiring matching of luggage and passengers beginning tomorrow could leave cruise customers standing at the dock.

She wonders why cruise lines don't push back their scheduled departures, normally about 5 p.m., to an hour that takes the airline security delays into account.

Arendt notes that sophisticated scanning machines are available mainly in larger airports. She says "the check-in procedures will slow down flights more so in smaller airports...which means our passengers will be coming late out of Podunk Regional Airport and most likely will miss their connections through the larger hubs of Atlanta, Chicago or St. Louis."

Arendt says there is good news these days in that more people are flying but she worries that heightened security might discourage the traveling public.

"At least we're getting butts back in the seats and berths but how will this new act affect the mindset of the traveling public?" she writes.

"I hope for all of us it will be repealed until all the airports can come up to speed to enact it. Otherwise, it's going to be another challenge to our industry, one that we do not need at this time."

It's unlikely that the government will backtrack on airline security but Arendt's point about airport delays is worth considering.

We may muddle through the next few months with tighter security because these are relatively slow periods for air travel. But what will happen as we move toward the peak vacation season?

The public wants heavier security and is prepared to cope with longer delays than it experienced before Sept. 11.

But there is a point where the hassle of air travel becomes a deterrent for a segment of the public that has other recourses.

The government and the airlines are walking a thin line between ensuring public safety and creating a logjam that will discourage people from traveling.

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