Boston's Logan airport reopens with tighter security as air travel inches toward normalcy

Saturday, September 15th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

BOSTON (AP) _ The Boston airport where hijackers boarded the planes that destroyed the World Trade Center reopened Saturday with officers in black SWAT uniforms and police dogs on patrol.

About 200 passengers waited for morning flights at Logan International Airport _ a fraction of the usual volume.

Travelers did not seem to mind the added restrictions, the long waits, or the presence of U.S. marshals, armed state police and Border Patrol officers. A sign told passengers that once past security checkpoints, they could be subject to random searches and verification of their tickets and identities.

``They need to do what they need to do to make it safe,'' said Joe Carnation, 64, of Santa Rosa, Calif.

A group of high school students visiting from Venezuela said they decided it was safe to fly home when they heard about the increased security. ``There's a lot of dogs and policemen,'' said Maria de los Angeles. ``I feel comfortable.''

Also Saturday, Continental Airlines became the first major U.S. carrier to announce cutbacks. The airline, the nation's fifth largest, said it was cutting its flight schedule by 20 percent and furloughing 12,000 employees, more than one-fifth of its work force.

On Tuesday, hijackers _ boarding flights in Boston, Newark, N.J., and Washington _ crashed two jetliners into the World Trade Center, one into the Pentagon, and a fourth into the Pennsylvania countryside.

Limited air travel resumed across the country Thursday and lurched toward normalcy Friday and Saturday. Federal officials also reopened the skies to most private planes.

Travelers across the country faced long lines, delays and limited service as airports implemented mandatory federal security measures, including a ban on curbside check-in and limited access to ticketed passengers beyond security screening points.

With the reopening of Logan, Reagan National Airport at Washington was the only major U.S. airport still closed to travel. Federal authorities said its proximity to the Pentagon and other federal buildings created enough security concern to keep it closed for now.

Private planes also remain banned from flying within about 30 miles of Washington, D.C., and New York City.

Investigators are trying to determine if the 10 terrorists armed with knives were able to board American Flight 11 and United Flight 175 at Logan because security practices were not followed or were simply too lax. Among other things, FBI agents want to know whether baggage handlers put weapons aboard the planes for the hijackers.

The first commercial flight from Logan airport left just before 7 a.m. Saturday for Chicago. The first arrival was a United flight from Los Angeles, touching down at 6:55 a.m.

At Logan, officials of Massport, which runs the airport, are requiring letters from airlines confirming their compliance with tighter FAA security measures. State police are also inspecting ramp areas, crawl spaces and construction sites; officers are stationed in the control tower and at security checkpoints throughout the airport.

``The traveling public knows _ and needs _ to expect a slow methodical startup to our aviation system,'' said Massport Director of Aviation Thomas Kinton.

Dr. Amai Elan of Jerusalem, a traveler in Logan, said the new measures are just starting to approach the tougher standards he has long seen overseas.

``In Heathrow, you can see people with submachine guns all the time,'' he said. Spotting a police Rottweiler walking nearby, Elan added: ``There's something we have not seen for years.''

Some terminals at New York's Kennedy Airport _ which along with the metropolitan area's two major airports reopened Friday _ looked like ghost towns, with restaurants shut down and only an occasional taxi passing outside. Others were mobbed with travelers, some of whom had spent days sleeping on cots and eating out of vending machines.