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Terry Trippler: How new airline security procedures affect consumers

Terry Trippler is an expert on travel, compiling "Rules of the Air," a consumer-oriented catalog of the airlines' rules and regulations. Trippler has more than 30 years of experience in the travel industry, and frequently contributes his knowledge in the national media. He joined chat room from Minneapolis, MN.

CNN: Welcome to Terry Trippler.

TERRY TRIPPLER: Hello, everybody! Keep your chin up, it's time to travel!

CNN: What are the main differences between air travel now and prior to September 11?

TRIPPLER: The basic difference between airline travel now and prior to September 11 is security. The security we see today is nothing compared to the security we're going to even see six months from now, when government programs are fully implemented. Basically, the security checkpoint is where the biggest change will be made. I believe this will come under the control of either the federal government or the airport police. Either way, it will be real cops with real weapons conducting real security. Professionals who are trained to notice body language, eye movement, nervousness, etc. This will, I believe, not only make air travelers feel safer, it will be safer for air travelers.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: Terry, why do we have to wait six months?

TRIPPLER: The reason for waiting six months, I chose that time frame because I think it will take that long to make and install all the necessary equipment. Improvements have been made now, and every month it will be better, but I believe within six months it will be very, very tight. We will adjust to it, just as we have adjusted to clearing security now, compared to the way it used to be.

CNN: How much extra time should people allow before their flights take off?

TRIPPLER: For now, I recommend arriving at the airport at least two-and-a-half hours before departure. I'm in hopes, and I believe the airports know, that they must improve upon this, if they are to keep the vibrant air transportation system going. If we can put a man on the moon, and develop the microwave oven, we should be able to figure out a way to get John and Mary and the two kids from the front door of the terminal to the airplane in less than two hours. I'm confident we will.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: Will there be an increase in ticket prices?

TRIPPLER: An increase in ticket prices due to security may occur, and if so, I hope it is listed as a separate price and on a separate place on a ticket, such as tax. We can look at a ticket, see how much was the fare, the tax, and then the security charge. That way we know how much is going towards security. We don't want the airlines to just add it in to the price of the ticket. It will probably be $5,000 then!

CHAT PARTICIPANT: Terry: I understand that the marshals onboard will be known only to the flight crew, is that right?

TRIPPLER: In-flight marshals are to be known only to the flight crew in a perfect world. However, yesterday, my brother flew from Minneapolis-St Paul to Washington Dulles airport, and he knew there was a sky marshal onboard.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: I usually travel with lots of electronics circuits because I am a hobbyist. Will I have problems with that?

TRIPPLER: I would suggest if you travel with a lot of electronic circuits such as you mentioned, that you contact FedEx, and ship it ahead. Carry-on baggage is where the biggest difference needs to be made, and I believe carry-on baggage is the place where the biggest difference will be made. The kitchen sink is going to have to be left at home from now on.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: Will the USA introduce bomb sniffing devices as they do in Ireland?

TRIPPLER: I believe if Congress does the right thing, and right now they seem to be in the mood to do just that, that the federal government will install the latest technology in bomb-sniffing, x-ray, and whatever other devices are available, to detect any explosive or incendiary devices checked on an airplane. I also believe there will be a positive passenger-baggage match system in effect, that if you do not board the plane, they will remove your bag. America has been slow, extremely slow, to handle airline security. And with everything else, they may be slow, but when they do it, they will do it right. They will have the best system in the world. On that, you can bet the rent.

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CHAT PARTICIPANT: Are this measures being taken only in the USA, or all around the world?

TRIPPLER: I think we will see increased security measures all around the world, except for possibly Israel, where it is impossible to imagine security measures any stronger, any stricter, than those the Israelis have had for years. The model for everyone.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: Will the fear people now feel about flying be translated into possibly more air rage? Will any passengers thinking they're saving the day mistakenly endanger a plane?

TRIPPLER: Interesting question. There always is that possibility, albeit very remote. I think passengers will be much more aware of the other passengers, of those around them, and probably, yes, be willing to become involved in any altercation they witness on a plane. This makes the job of the flight attendant a little harder, as they may find themselves refereeing, rather than serving Diet Pepsi.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: Terry will the FAA seek to change the way airlines contract checkpoint security?

TRIPPLER: Yes, I think that the way it is done now is over. Unfortunately, many of the people at the security checkpoints are working a second job, some a third job, at very low, very minimal wages, and they unfortunately are taking the brunt of this situation. It's unfair, and it's going to stop because, again, the mood in Congress and among everyone is for professional police to be handling security. That's not to say that some of the people currently doing this job could not be trained to become professional law enforcement officers. Let's give them a chance.

CNN: Might the airlines resort to any special fares to encourage ticket sales?

TRIPPLER: I believe even for the airlines it's somewhat tacky to be in Washington hat in hand, asking for a handout, bailout, or whatever they wish to call it, and then conduct a clearance sale at home. I don't anticipate huge sales announced from the rooftops very soon. I do, however, advise frequent flyer members to watch your mailbox, electronic, and U.S. postal service ones, for special coupons, discounts, bonus miles. This is a way airlines can actually have a sale without announcing a sale, without alerting or panicking Wall Street, and I do expect those coupons are being printed as we speak.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: Have they stopped the sale of alcohol on flights?

TRIPPLER: No. Senator Feinstein has not gotten her way yet. Alcohol is still being served on flights. I don't think the terrorists were drinking. I don't think alcohol played a role in this at all. Alcohol will still be served. It's a source of revenue for the airlines, and will remain so for a long time. Four or five bucks a drink is good money. But... the Diet Pepsi is still free!

CNN: Terry, do you have any final thoughts for us today?

TRIPPLER: My word to travelers, to Americans in particular, is I'm proud of America's display of the flag, of the red, white and blue colors you see and the signs along the freeways. It makes you proud to be an American. But I want to stress that I also believe that true patriots are the ones who are buying stock, not selling it, who are booking airline reservations, not canceling them, who are checking into hotels, not out of them. We can stop this economic hit right in its tracks. All we have to do is buy a ticket, get on a plane, and go somewhere. To paraphrase New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, "If you want to help New York right now, come to New York and spend money." It's safe to fly so let's go somewhere. We can get these people back to work quicker than you can say "put your seat up and your table in its full upright position."

CNN: Thank you for joining us today Terry Trippler.

TRIPPLER: Good bye everyone, and happy trails!

Terry Trippler joined chat room via telephone from Minneapolis, MN. CNN provided a typist. The above is an edited transcript of the interview, which took place on Monday, September 24, 2001.

• Federal Aviation Administration

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