Kenai travelers struggle with luggage before heading south

Frustration flying high

Posted: Monday, August 14, 2006

As people prepare to take to the air, so too do their flying concerns being to soar in the wake of the recent events in Britain, where a terrorist plot to blow up several planes with liquid explosives was foiled last week.

“We’re frustrated because we’re caught in the middle,” said Teresa Byrd, who along with her husband, David, was flying out of Kenai on Sunday morning en route to their home in Atlanta after a week of vacation.

“All this happened while we were here. Had we known, we would have packed differently, but we just found out about it and now we’re left with having to throw things like lotions and makeup away or get creative with packing them,” Teresa Byrd said.

Part of the problem is that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued new rules requiring all liquids and gels to be stowed in checked baggage, rather than go as carry-on luggage. The second part of the Byrds’ problem is more uniquely Alaskan.

“We caught 183 pounds of fish that we’re bringing home, but each passenger is only allowed two pieces of luggage weighing 50 pounds each. That doesn’t leave much for everything else,” she said.

Byrd said that deciding what to bring and what to leave was a tough task because of the cost of certain items in her possession.

“Some of my face creams and other makeup are 30 to 40 dollars a pop,” she said.

While acknowledging the experience of returning home would be somewhere between inconvenient to downright annoying during legs of their trip, the Byrds said they had no fear as a result of recent events.

“I’m not worried about flying at all. No system in the world can catch everything and if the plane blows up, it blows up. It was just my time,” Teresa Byrd said.

Like the Byrds, Aukjen Ingraham, who was returning home to Portland, Ore. after a three-day trip to Ninilchik for a wedding, said she had just learned about the changes to what was allowed on the plane.

“The woman at the counter just told me about the restrictions. I didn’t really know what happened with the terrorists and all that, but I’m expecting to learn even more when I get to Anchorage,” she said.

The little Aukjen did know about the restrictions, she didn’t like.

“I think the whole makeup thing is just ridiculous. I think they just need to screen better, rather than not allowing these items,” she said.

Aukjen also said she wasn’t afraid to fly, not because of how safe she felt, but because she had already flown in worse times.

“I flew a few weeks after September 11, so it couldn’t be as bad as that,” she said.

Rebecca Edmondson, a ticket agent with Era Aviation in Kenai, said most of the people she had been in contact with Sunday morning had already heard something about the new restrictions.

“I’d say roughly 75 percent of the people are aware. They’ve had a lot of questions about what they can and can’t bring, and they’re concerned about what is going on,” she said.

Rachel Knowles of Anchorage was flying out of Kenai on Sunday, and while she didn’t have as far to go as some people, she said she felt bad for those who would be affected by recent world events.

“It’s really too bad that people have to worry so much when flying, being afraid and having to stand in long security lines can really ruin the travel experience,” she said.

Knowles said she wasn’t afraid to fly since she was just going less than a half hour north, but if she was flying to a big hub in the Lower 48, she would be more concerned for her safety.

“I wouldn’t be as relaxed. My panic would definitely rise if I saw people standing around with big AK-47s and assault rifles for security like in some of the big airports. I always wonder what would happened if they had to start firing those things,” she said.

Knowles said the government’s and Homeland Security’s response to terror threats lead to increased anxiety in the general public, which in her opinion is not what is needed in these trying times.

“Putting fear into people isn’t a good way to deal with this. Making people aware is a better way of dealing with the situation,” she said.

No liquid allowed

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has the following advice for airline passengers:

· As of Aug. 10, the U.S. threat level has been raised to high, or Orange, for all commercial aviation operations in the United States.

· As a result of increased aviation screening procedures, the following liquids and gels will no longer be permitted as carry-on baggage: all beverages, shampoo, suntan lotion, creams, toothpaste, hair gel and other items of similar consistency.

· The only exception to the liquid/gel ban are: baby formula, breast milk, juice if a baby is traveling, prescription medicine matching the name on the passenger’s ticket, insulin and other essential nonprescription medicines.

· Passengers can assist in security clearance by packing lightly, without clutter to facilitate easier screening, and by arriving earlier than usual at the airport.

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