Denver air passengers endure long waits amid terror warnings
Denver — Fretting travelers waited in long lines at Denver International Airport security checkpoints Thursday, and loudspeakers blared warnings that toothpaste, water and other common items were barred from planes after authorities in Britain disrupted a plot to blow up U.S.-bound flights.
“I will be surprised if we make our flight,” said Elizabeth Bailey, 25, of South Fork as she waited to get to her San Francisco-bound flight for a wedding. She had to dump the perfume, lotion and shampoo she had in her purse.
The Bush administration raised the threat level for domestic flights to orange, the second-highest, and passengers at airports nationwide were told they could not take any liquids or gels aboard planes.
The wait to get through security at Denver International was 90 minutes at midmorning, down from an hour and 15 minutes earlier in the day, the airport said.
In the main terminal, lines of travelers snaked out of the roped-off security checkpoints, past stores and restaurants and around to the baggage claim area in another part of the sprawling building.
At the entrance to Concourse A, the queue stretched across the pedestrian bridge to the main terminal and wound past ticket counters.
“The line is pretty wretched at this point,” said Joe Hodas, a spokesman for Denver-based Frontier Airlines.
Signs were posted at doors, ticket counters and parking entrances around DIA, as well as at car rental lots and on shuttle buses telling passengers about the restrictions.
Electronic signs on the main road to the airport warned of the security alert.
At Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, the U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command were monitoring developments from their headquarters.
“We are always manned 24/7, always vigilant and always alert,” spokeswoman Maj. April Cunningham said.
The Northern Command, established in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, is responsible for defense of U.S. territory.
Cunningham said the command has air patrols ready to go, but she declined to say if any had been dispatched, citing security reasons.
Denver airport spokesman Chuck Cannon said a British Airways flight from Denver to London was planned later in the day but he did not know whether it had been delayed or canceled.
British Airways, which has nonstop flights between Denver and London, began banning all carryon bags aboard its planes.
Hodas said Frontier was awaiting word from federal officials on whether the heightened security alert will affect the airline’s flights to Mexico and Canada. Frontier does not fly to Britain.
Gov. Bill Owens’ spokesman, Dan Hopkins, said there were no specific threats to Colorado and the governor had not activated the National Guard.
Owens did order officials of the State Patrol and Homeland Security Department to activate the state’s emergency operations center, where they were monitoring information from federal authorities.
“It’s not a lot different from a normal day except heightened alert,” said Polly White, spokeswoman for the state Division of Emergency Management.
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