Expecting tight security at airports, security procedures, security measures

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What to take

Before the tragedy on September 11, airport check-in in America and worldwide was fairly casual. Passengers showed their ID s to get a boarding pass, walked through a basic security search, and boarded the plane. As the airlines and airports review safety measures over the next few weeks you can expect big changes at airport check-in.

As part of airport jobs, airline security will be doing a more thorough check of passenger luggage. Your chances of having your luggage physically searched will increase, and security is more likely to ask you questions about your travel plans and arrangements. Expect the time it takes to get through security to increase, so get to the airport earlier. We recommend arriving two hours before a national flight and two and a half hours before an international flight.

You can expect access to passenger areas to get a lot tighter. Some lobbies are already limited to passengers only, so be prepared to say good-bye to family or friends before you pass security. To get into the boarding area, you may be asked for your ID at the ticket desk, again by security, and along with your boarding pass by the gate agent as you enter the plane. Security may also ask for your ID at other times, so make sure that you keep it handy. If you are flying on an E-ticket, bring your ID, a receipt for your ticket, and a copy of your itinerary with you to the airport.

Airlines are limiting the types of items that you can have in your carry on luggage. Security can confiscate any item that might be used as a weapon, including pocket knives, sewing scissors, razors, manicure kits and aerosol cans. Trying to smuggle forbidden items can get you banned from a flight or possibly arrested. Most proscribed items can be stowed in checked baggage.

There is also some discussion among the airlines about limiting the size of carry-on luggage to smaller than the current policy allows. As a traveler, consider limiting your carry-on baggage to valuables such as cash, jewelry and electronics and necessary items such as medication. Voluntarily limiting your carry-on baggage will also make it easier for you to get on and off the plane, and to stow your items.

Passengers' actions may be treated with more suspicion than before the terrorist attacks. Airlines have the right to ban you from flights and even have you arrested if your behavior is suspicious or they think you are likely to put a flight at risk. In the face of longer security lines and more baggage searches, keep your temper. Don ' t interfere with security if they search your bags or ask to see your ID. They are doing their job and trying to keep you safe. Never take a package or luggage given to you by a stranger, and keep your luggage and carry-on bags close by so that someone cannot tamper with them.

Airlines are still coping with the horrific hijackings on September 11. Some of the changes in security will take months to implement, and some of the policies are temporary reactions to a terrible tragedy. Before you fly, check with your airline and local airport to find out what policies they have implemented.

Rule 240: Don't Leave Home Without It!

Here's your secret weapon for fighting airline delays, cancellations, and missed connections:

Rule 240.

Before airline deregulation in 1978, Rule 240 was literally a federal requirement. Nowadays, it's a term describing what individual airlines will do for late or stranded passengers. In fact, the major airlines have filed "conditions of carriage" with the U.S. Department of Transporatation (DOT) guaranteeing their respective Rule 240s.

If your flight is delayed or cancelled, or if you've missed your flight connection, these policies may give you free meal vouchers, hotel accommodations, phone calls, and other amenities. You may be booked on a substitute flight -- even on another airline -- and you may be compensated or given a full refund if the flight problems persist.

How can you use Rule 240 to protect your rights?

Always carry a printed copy of your airline's Rule 240. Though the DOT requires airlines to keep a Rule 240 copy available for passengers at every ticket counter, don't count on that.

(Click on your airline's name below for a copy of its official Rule 240.)

Read Rule 240 carefully before you use it. Many airline ticket agents do not know these policies, so you should be the expert

For example, Rule 240s generally apply only to delays that are absolutely the airline's fault, such as mechanical delays. They do not apply to what the airlines call "force majeure" events: weather, strikes, "acts of God," or other occurrences that the airlines say they cannot control.

Be polite but very firm about your rights under Rule 240. You'll win most battles at ticket counters when you say the phrase "Rule 240" and show the agent your printed copy of the airline's policies. However, don't hesitate to keep going up the chain to supervisors if you're not satisfied. Sometimes, airlines will even go beyond Rule 240 requirements in the name of customer service. (Not always, but it's worth a shot!)