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Security rules get tighter at airport

Airplane passengers have gotten used to some awkward maneuvers in recent years, such as taking off shoes and belts while working their way through airport checkpoints.

Now, passengers can expect to take off their jackets too.

Beginning Monday, airport screeners nationwide began asking passengers to remove their jackets and run them through X-ray devices at checkpoints. The new policy applies to all kinds of jackets _ whether they're blazers, athletic warm-up jackets, or winter coats.

"It might add a little extra time," especially during peak flight times, said Brenda Geoghagan, Tampa International Airport spokeswoman. But she wasn't expecting any major problems, especially if passengers at peak times arrive two hours before flight times.

The jacket rule and some other new procedures are part of the evolving process of screening passengers to make sure terrorists don't board airplanes. Ann Davis, spokesperson for the federal Transportation Security Administration, said the new procedures are designed to make sure no one carries explosives onto airplanes.

That's also behind two other procedures that began Monday:

+ Airport screeners can now use their own discretion to give passengers "secondary screenings."

In secondary screenings, passengers submit to a pat-down by screeners, plus "wanding," in which a screener waves a hand-held metal detector around a passenger's body, as well as inspection of carry-on luggage.

The new policy "gives the screeners a little more leeway" to decide who should get secondary screenings, Davis said. She said screeners are "looking for an abnormal bulge or bump or an irregular shape on the person's contour that needs closer scrutiny." Screeners would want to make sure the bulge is not because of an explosive or weapon under a passenger's clothing.

+ In another change, all passengers given secondary screenings also will have their luggage run through explosives detection equipment.

At TIA, Geoghagan said the best way to get through the screenings smoothly is to arrive two hours before flight time when flying at peak times. Peak times are generally between 6 and 9 a.m., at noon, and between 4 and 6 p.m., in every month except September, when air traffic at TIA is not as busy.

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