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Tampa International Airport travelers should not expect big security changes

Peter Winters watches for his bag at Tampa International Airport after arriving 90 minutes late from Toronto on Monday for his vacation in Longboat Key.

MELISSA LYTTLE | Times

Peter Winters watches for his bag at Tampa International Airport after arriving 90 minutes late from Toronto on Monday for his vacation in Longboat Key.

What should I expect at the airport?

Probably little difference if you're flying domestically or heading out of the United States. But travelers on international flights into the United States are encountering much tighter security screening.

Should I prepare differently for my trip?

Get to the airport early — two hours early for domestic trips during the holidays and three hours if you're flying somewhere outside the U.S. Rules for what you can bring in carry-ons and checked luggage haven't changed.

So, what's the big deal?

Travelers coming into the U.S. have had security officers dig though their carry-ons and conduct pat-down searches. They've been restricted to their seats for the last hour of the flight and couldn't use a blanket or pillow, or have anything on their laps. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) eased up on in-flight restrictions Monday.

Has that caused problems here?

The tougher screening delayed international flights from Toronto, where the screening rules caused lengthy wait times. At Tampa International on Monday, two of four Toronto flights arrived an hour or more late.

Will I run into the same kind of screening in U.S. airports?

The TSA's focus seems to be on threats from international travelers. At domestic airports, officers could screen passengers and check their bags at the gate, use bomb-sniffing dogs and "behavior detection" techniques, the TSA said.

Does Tampa International Airport have any of the "whole-body" scanners that can spot weapons under someone's clothes?

Yes. There are four ProVision machines, one at each airside terminal. The scanners are produced by L-3 Communications at a facility in St. Petersburg.

Steve Huettel can be reached at huettel@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3384.

Tampa International Airport travelers should not expect big security changes 12/28/09 [Last modified: Monday, December 28, 2009 11:23pm]
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