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John Wayne Airport Tightens Its Security : Travel: Passengers are urged to arrive early due to extra steps imposed in wake of recent convictions in New York terrorism case.

October 05, 1995|ENRIQUE LAVIN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

COSTA MESA — Officials at John Wayne Airport on Wednesday urged travelers to arrive early and be prepared to provide photo identification as part of increased security measures.

With last week's conviction of 10 terrorists for plotting to blow up the United Nations and New York area commuter tunnels, among other activities, the Federal Aviation Administration on Sunday directed airports across the country to beef up security in case of terrorist retaliation.

No specific threats, however, have been directed at any airport.

Nevertheless, at John Wayne Airport, officials suggested that passengers arrive 30 minutes early and watch for unattended packages.

"This is for traveler security, and it's to have a cautious eye open," said Maudette Ball, an airport spokeswoman.

Earlier this year, the airport had to take extra security measures after the Unabomber--whom the FBI blames for three deaths and 23 injuries in 16 package-bomb attacks since 1978--threatened airliners.

However, the last time a nationwide alert was given was during the Persian Gulf War.

The level of security is not as severe as in 1991, when the war began, Interim Airport Director O.B. Schooley said.

"This should be less of a nuisance to the traveling public than Desert Storm," Schooley said. "We are hoping delays are at a minimum, and we'll operate as normal."

The airport handles about 7 million travelers a year.

Schooley said the FAA has not told John Wayne officials when the security alert would be lifted.

Airport officials said extra staff will be used to keep the area secure. Passengers over the age of 16 are being asked to bring photo identification, airport managers said. Unattended vehicles will not be permitted at white curbs. All baggage is subject to search, and passengers are encouraged to use identification tags on all bags.

In addition, some vehicles in parking lots next to the Thomas F. Riley Terminal will be searched. Airport managers are suggesting that travelers leave their vehicles at the Main Street parking lots and use airport shuttle buses.

A recording to remind passengers of heightened airport security measures was installed last spring after the Unabomber threat.

Travelers can call the terminal information number, (714) 252-5006, for updates regarding security measures before leaving for John Wayne Airport.

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