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U.S.-bound passengers cope with airport delays

Tighter security rules tangle departures from Canada, London and other places. The effect on domestic flights is less dramatic.

December 28, 2009|By Jane Engle
(Graham Hughes / AP )

Air passengers headed to the United States from Canada, Europe and elsewhere faced hours of delay Sunday because of tightened security imposed after a Nigerian man allegedly tried to bomb a Northwest Airlines flight headed from Amsterdam to Detroit.

The new security measures varied, but at many airports, travelers flying to the U.S. were limited to one carry-on and were subject to pat-downs or last-minute bag screenings at the gate. Once on the plane, many were told to stay in their seats for the last hour of the flight.

Among the affected airports:

* Pearson International, Toronto: Travelers faced huge lines and "absolute bedlam" Sunday, the Toronto Star reported. Some U.S.-bound flights at Canada's busiest airport were delayed four hours or more, partly because of the new carry-on limit, the Canadian Press reported.

"Most of the delays are occurring -- or some of the delays are occurring -- because passengers come to the airport and . . . they're having to shuffle their baggage around," said Trish Krale of the Greater Toronto Airports Authority, the Canadian news service reported.

* Vancouver International: The airport's website, which reported flight delays, said U.S.-bound passengers could expect to "undergo a personal [pat-down] search and have all of their personal belongings examined"; be limited to one carry-on bag; and face some delays "as the additional screening does take more time."

* Heathrow, London: The Times of London reported "chaos at Heathrow and other British airports with delays reaching up to five hours." On its website, Heathrow, one of the world's biggest airports, advised travelers to limit carry-on luggage, arrive promptly and call their airlines for additional advice.

The security crackdown, which was aimed mainly at flights into the U.S. from abroad, did not seem to cause major delays at U.S. airports.

In Los Angeles, an airport spokeswoman said that the security changes were not causing delays, and that any flight delays stemmed from snowstorms that had affected air traffic through the Midwest.

"We are aware the TSA has beefed up protocols and procedures," said Nancy Castles, Los Angeles World Airports spokeswoman. "There isn't an observable difference in them to the public, but they are observable to us."

She advised travelers, "Call ahead to your airline and check on the flight."

Times staff writer Richard Winton contributed to this report.

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