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Passengers face more scrutiny

Passengers face more scrutiny

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Airport security tightened up just in time for the holidays.

Effective today, the Transportation Security Administration lifted a ban on small scissors, screwdrivers and other small tools, but increased the number of random searches, secondary screenings and pat-downs.

Americans, meanwhile, prepared to travel in record numbers for the holidays, and the Central Illinois Regional Airport sold out flights.

"People often ask about things they can't take on the plane. I'm aware of the changes, but personally I am going to keep telling them not to bring (scissors) if they don't need them because it's not worth the hassle," said Kim Morine of Suzi Davis Travel/American Express in Bloomington.

"If you've got something metal in your pocket, you're going to be stopped. Why bother with that?" she added.

People are more likely to be stopped anyway.

TSA lifted the ban on small tools to give security personnel added time to search for more threatening objects like explosives.

Security officials also want to keep potential terrorists on their toes with random searches. One day, passengers may have to remove their shoes, for example, while another day they won't. Passengers also may be subject to more expansive pat-down searches and inspections of carry-on bags. It all depends on the day.

The added security should only cost passengers a few extra minutes of time, TSA said.

"It is paramount to the security of our aviation system that terrorists not be able to know with certainty what screening procedures they will encounter at airports around the nation," said Kip Hawley, TSA assistant secretary. "By incorporating unpredictability into our procedures and eliminating low-threat items, we can better focus our efforts on stopping individuals that wish to harm."

Items labeled "low-threat" and legal to carry on board include scissors with a cutting edge of 4 inches or less and tools such as screwdrivers, wrenches and pliers smaller than 7 inches. Lighters are still prohibited.

While security personnel prepare for the changes, Americans are packing their bags for the holidays.

"It's already been a busy week," said Fran Strebing, marketing director at the Central Illinois Regional Airport in Bloomington. "The week prior to Christmas and the week after are very concentrated and busy. We're going to be busy even on Christmas Day."

Nearly 9 million Americans plan to fly for the holidays, according to a survey by AAA-Chicago Motor Club. In all, a record 63.5 million people plan to travel between Christmas and New Year's Day, with about 81 percent driving, AAA said.

"Some flights are sold out of Bloomington. It's pretty typical for this time of year," said Traci Oman of AAA Travel Agency in Bloomington.

People flying during the holidays should remember not to wrap gifts, she said. They will be unwrapped and checked by security officials.

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