A quick pat-down by security guards at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport is no problem for Sharon Bradford of Ahwatukee Foothills — "as long as they do it by the book."
Bradford was one of thousands of travelers at the airport Wednesday coping with security measures that have been layered on since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The latest change — more pat-down inspections at gate checkpoints — was new to many passengers flying the day before Thanksgiving, one of the airport’s busiest days.
"I think it’s necessary," said Bradford, 50, standing in a quick-moving line about noon at Terminal 4's Gate B. She was on her way to visit family in California. "I have no problem with it."
Passengers are now asked to remove sweaters, jackets or other "outermost garments," and will get a patdown if security personnel think something is protruding from their clothing, said Nico Melendez, spokesman for the federal Transportation Security Administration. The measure started in mid-September after two terrorists with bombs strapped to their bodies brought down two Russian jetliners, he said.
The higher number of patdowns led to a pen knife being discovered in a woman’s bra in Atlantic City, N.J., recently, he said.
"That shows that it works, and it’s something we need to do," Melendez said.
Since the 2001 attacks, passengers have had to take off shoes and belts, have luggage screened with powerful X-ray machines and have their names entered into federal computers for matching against terrorist watch lists, among other measures. The heightened security sometimes causes delays and emotional outbursts, but most passengers are resigned to the changes.
Yet while travelers are subjected to more scrutiny, the majority of cargo loaded on airplanes at Sky Harbor and other U.S. airports is not Xrayed. Most is put on cargo planes, but "a very small amount" of unscreened cargo is also loaded on passenger planes, Melendez said.
"We simply don’t have the ability to screen these large pieces of cargo," he said.