NEW YORK (AP) -- Randy Petersen, editor and publisher of InsideFlyer magazine, spent the last two weeks on airplanes, taking 72 flights among more than four dozen cities to survey the security procedures put in place after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
For Americans taking off to visit family or to go on vacation at Thanksgiving, he's got some suggestions: Allow plenty of time for new check-in and security routines. Travel light. And pack a lot of patience.
''This Thanksgiving travel season will certainly be like no other Thanksgiving,'' Petersen said. ''The experience is quite different from before, and people should be prepared for the changes.''
Most airlines are offering greatly reduced fares or frequent-flyer mileage bonuses to lure reluctant travelers, especially on international routes.
They're already recommending that passengers arrive at the airport at least two hours before the departure times for domestic flights and three hours for overseas flights, and Petersen says Thanksgiving travelers are going to need that buffer.
''At some airports, it's already taking an hour or more to clear through to the gate -- and that's without big holiday travel volume,'' he said.
The biggest delays are at the metal detector stations, he added, and holiday travelers can do a lot to help minimize that.
''If you have anything that beeps on you, they stop the entire line and check you completely before you can go on,'' Petersen said. ''The more people that beep because they left car keys in their pocket or have a big belt buckle, the slower the process.''
There's also a new security procedure that some travelers may find disconcerting -- random checks at boarding gates. Airlines select a handful of passengers for thorough checks of pockets, purses and carry-on bags.
''If you're chosen, you might feel uncomfortable, and if you're watching, you might think something is wrong,'' Petersen said. ''But it doesn't mean anybody is guilty of anything. These checks are random, and my guess is that within the next year, everybody who travels will be subjected to them at one time or another.''
Michael Wascom, spokesman for the Air Transport Association trade group in Washington, D.C., said travelers also are going to have to learn to pack differently.
The Federal Aviation Administration has decreed that each passenger is allowed just one carry-on bag and one other personal item, such as a purse or a briefcase, and airlines are enforcing that.
''We recommend you carry as little as possible because it will expedite the process,'' Wascom advised.
Don't even think of trying to carry on board or to check baggage with firearms, knives, box cutters or other cutting instruments. If you need to travel with items such as metal scissors, corkscrews and metal nail files or sports equipment such as golf clubs or baseball bats, they should be in luggage that goes into the plane's cargo hold.
''If you're carrying gifts, leave them unwrapped because there's a strong likelihood that if they're wrapped, they'll be opened by security personnel,'' Wascom said. He recommends that travelers put gifts in baggage they're going to check or, even better, ship them in advance via the mail or a courier service.
The Air Transport Association also advises that valuables such as jewelry and necessities such as medication and passports should be carried on to the plane, never left in checked baggage.
Travelers also need to show a ticket and a government-issued ID, such as a passport or driver's license, to get through security checkpoints.
Christina Kozloff, marketing manager for Expedia.com, the online travel company, said people who purchase e-tickets need printouts of their ticket receipts or itineraries that includes their ticket numbers.
''This will be the first time many people are traveling since the events of Sept. 11, and security details are still in some flux,'' Kozloff said. ''Hopefully by Christmas time, which is an even bigger flying time than Thanksgiving, the kinks will be ironed out.''
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