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Tighter security evident at TIA

Moments after Bill Feinstein placed his duffel bag on the conveyer belt at Tampa International Airport on Friday, the machine stopped abruptly and security officials began digging through his luggage.

They looked intently until a strange-looking object caught their eye on the X-ray machine. They checked it, and, with a sigh of relief, let him go.

"They saw my umbrella, and they went crazy," said Feinstein, 61, who was returning to New York from a business trip. "All travelers should be happy they are taking precautions after what happened with TWA."

A day after President Clinton announced tighter security measures at the nation's airports, at least two major airlines at TIA were diligently searching carry-on luggage.

Some new measures were also visible at a number of major U.S. airports Friday, although an informal survey by the Los Angeles Times found that the effect varied widely depending upon the airport and the kind of traffic it usually experiences.

Americans check an average of more than 2-million pieces of luggage every day on domestic airline flights.

Security experts say checks such as luggage searches will buy some higher measure of safety, but because of the size of the task, the effect may be as much psychological as practical.

At TIA, security officials at the airside for Continental Airlines, the airport's fifth-largest carrier, opened every bag that came through the X-ray machine and forced some passengers to wait as they rifled through belongings. No one seemed to mind.

"It's not that bad, and it just takes a few minutes," said John Kohlberger, 43, of New Jersey. "It doesn't bother me, and I'm glad they're doing it."

Delta Airlines, TIA's second-largest carrier, also was searching passenger carry-on baggage, which caused some lines to back up with people arriving for evening flights.

Passengers are advised to arrive even earlier than normal for their flights _ at least 60 minutes before departure is recommended _ clearly label all luggage and present picture identification upon checking in.

"I'm all for it because the safer things are, the better," said Oliver Popa, 65, who arrived at the airport two hours ahead for a flight home to Youngstown, Ohio. "I actually anticipated that it would be more thorough than it was."

Airline officials said Friday that they could not disclose security changes but that many adjustments would not be noticed by passengers.

"We made what we call "below the wings' changes that passengers will not see," said Todd Clay, communications manager for Delta. "The things they notice are changes we made last year in anticipation of the Olympics."

Officials said to expect questions about where you are going and who packed your luggage. International passengers must check in at the counter, not at curbside, and all passengers may be subject to searches.

"Travel does not have to become an unenjoyable experience by any means," said Rick Weintraub, spokesman for USAir. "On the passenger side, the best counsel is try to add a little extra time to your flight plans and be cooperative and patient."

_ Information from the Los Angeles Times and Knight-Ridder Newspapers was used in this report.

If you're traveling

Arrive at the airport at least an hour before departure time

Clearly label bags

Have photo identification

Expect more security questions and random searches of luggage