Flying through lines at airport |

Flying through lines at airport

What I’m about to tell you could be far from the truth on most days.

Air travel can be a breeze.

Even with new federal rules put in place that primarily order the screening of checked-in baggage, the holiday presented no special challenges that disrupted my schedule flight from Los Angeles International Airport to Reno on New Year’s Day.

Behind the scenes, airports either rely on huge mechanized screening devices, bomb-sniffing dogs or hand searches.

I hit the ground running on my trip home to Tahoe from La La Land, grateful for the time there to hone my driving skills.

When it came time to negotiate the Southwest line at the airport, my watch read 9:20 a.m. I hung tight, hearing a chorus of one of the most magical words in the travel world — “next.”

Despite a line that wrapped three deep, I checked in at the counter in 20 minutes. Taking my bag was a helpful man who donned a big patch on his shirt sleeve that read: “Transportation Security Administration.”

The agency was formed following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Since then, the future of air travel has been up in the air. International travel took a dive, and airlines pleaded for federal funds.

With that, federal employees were brought in to the nation’s airports to field the thousands of passengers moving through the system.

What has gone away are the questions: “Did you pack your own bags?” and “Have your bags been outside your control?”

I have often wondered who in their right mind would answer no and yes, respectively.

Over the holiday, my experience getting on a plane from one of the world’s busiest airports was so easy, I began to understand why Southwest — accounting for more than 40 percent of Reno/Tahoe International Airport business — is one of only two airlines that has pulled a profit in the last two years. JetBlue based in New York is the other.

Lots of finger pointing and signs mark air travel today.

As if it’s needed, one sign reminded passengers to refrain from carrying hazardous materials like bleach and gasoline on board. Another allowed for one bag and one personal item like a camera. And yet another warned passengers to keep track of their bags, otherwise they will be confiscated.

One might be tempted to add “and blown up.”

Sharp objects of any kind are an absolute no-no.

I’ve also had worse experiences at the security checkpoint for carry-on baggage. Only now, it’s more entertaining — with many passengers disrobing. I took off my belt as a shoe on the conveyor belt passed me.

I remember feeling grateful I didn’t accompany a man questioned at length about a battery he put in his carry-on baggage.

With the exception of needing handouts explaining the ins and outs of the new world of airline travel and barring any abnormal activity, lines of passengers weaving in and outside the terminals appear to be moving. The professionalism among the federal screeners is also a welcome departure from the private contractors who seemed asleep on the job half the time.

I can recall sprinting to the gate with a full backpack and suitcase and security didn’t even blink an eye.

It’s a new day, and even those on the periphery have noticed the changes.

“It’s so much nicer now. (The screeners) are more courteous, more professional,” said Los Angeles police Officer Paul Waymire, whose beat includes LAX.

When asked if the assignment is boring, Waymire didn’t flinch at the answer.

“In this job, boring is good,” he said, as his supervisor, Officer Wendy Berndt, nodded.

— Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at

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