CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
The higher alert status caused longer lines yesterday at Honolulu Airport's security checkpoints.
Hawaii reacts to terror plot
Travelers rush to meet new carry-on rules
The state's top Civil Defense official says he was impressed by how the nation "ramped up" to protect passengers and the country after British authorities stopped a terrorist plot to blow up several commercial planes bound for the United States.
The terrorists "want to strike fear in every American, and we cannot let that happen," said Robert Lee, state adjutant general and Civil Defense director.
Signs were posted along the sidewalk near check-in points at Honolulu Airport yesterday informing travelers that almost all liquid items are prohibited from passing security checkpoints.
"Real innocent-looking bottles of water or shampoo or gel, we don't know what's in them, but when mixed together could be very serious to the airline itself and the safety of all the passengers on board," Lee said.
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Bins of confiscated items filled up yesterday at Honolulu Airport.
STRICTER AIRPORT SECURITY RULES NOW IN EFFECT
Liquid items that are prohibited
from passing the screening checkpoint at airports:
» All beverages of any type in any size container, including bottled water
» Suntan lotion
» Hair gel
» Contact lens solution
» Other items of similar consistency
» Baby formula or breast milk, only if a baby or small child is traveling.
» Prescription medicine with a name that matches the passenger's ticket.
» Insulin and other essential nonprescription medications.
Passengers on interisland flights are advised to arrive at the airport 1 1/2 hours to two hours early, while those scheduled for domestic and international flights should arrive three hours early.
Source: Transportation Security Administration
At about 4:30 a.m. yesterday, agents of the Transportation Security Administration started passing out fliers to travelers standing at check-in lines informing them of the new screening procedures and to place liquid items in their luggage.
The new rule, in effect until further notice, was enforced after a terrorist plot to blow up several commercial airplanes with the use of liquid explosives was stopped by British authorities.
The threat level at airports was increased to orange from yellow yesterday, while threat levels for harbors experienced no change, state Transportation Director Rod Haraga said.
Six members of the K-9 explosive detection unit patrolled the airport with dogs that sniffed baggage lines to the screening gate that snaked through the sliding glass doors and onto the walkway outside the interisland terminal.
"It's hectic. It's a mess. People just found out this morning. They gotta open their suitcases. They basically have to repack," said agent Akira Osbourne at Japan Airlines in the main terminal.
By 4 p.m., transportation officials estimated about 1,500 pounds of bottles of water, shampoo, suntan lotion, toothpaste and other liquid items were tossed into garbage cans set up at checkpoints.
Some items that were tossed included a jar of peanut butter, deodorant, eye drops, cough syrup, Vicks VapoRub and texturizing hair paste. Some passengers gave their unopened bottles of water to agents before going through the security gate.
The long lines at the interisland terminal subsided, and the packed lobby cleared up sometime after lunch.
Some travelers said they had heard about the new rule through family or friends who called them after they had watched the news.
Travelers are not complaining about giving up their items, said visitor Information assistant Willette Okuda-Ishiyama.
"We haven't had anybody that was irate. They've been understanding," she said.
While travelers filled the interisland terminal yesterday morning, the main terminal was less chaotic. But agents said they expected more travelers to arrive at the main terminal by late afternoon or last night.
Pam Barker of Milwaukee said she had to get rid of two new bottles of wine because she did not want to pack them in her luggage for fear the glass bottles might break.
Lee said a conference call was set up with city and state agencies and other partners.
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Travelers at Honolulu Airport transferred items from their carry-on bags to their check-in luggage yesterday after new restrictions went into effect after the London terror plot was halted, heightening security at airports worldwide.
"Everybody came up on line. That's why I think today, you did not see the mass confusion at the airport like you see in Chicago or Los Angeles, because (state tourism liaison) Marsha Wienert got the word out to all (the) hotel industry and all travelers last night," he said.
Wienert contacted various organizations across the state to inform visitors of the new rule. "We had all the information to the hotel industry by about 10 p.m. last night," she said.
About 75 percent of Japanese visitors who departed yesterday morning had the information before they left their hotel, Wienert said.
Even with the new rule, "we were able to expedite passengers in a timely manner," she said. At the airport's peak period, there was only a maximum of a one-hour wait to check in and get passengers to the security gate, Wienert said.
Sidney Hayakawa, Honolulu federal security director of the Transportation Security Administration, said, "I'm proud to say at this point, yes, we had longer wait times but really no delays at all."
Agents will administer random checks at the second gate before passengers board the aircraft.
Some passengers took advantage of self-service offered at Honolulu Airport where they could mail items that could have been confiscated back to their home address or elsewhere. The service was originally set up so passengers can mail back scissors, pocketknives and corkscrews -- items prohibited in the cabin following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Domestic rates are $7 and international rates are $14.
Kailua resident Kay Mura, who was scheduled to catch a flight to San Diego yesterday, filled a small plastic bag with her hair gel, moisturizer, sunscreen and toothpaste. Mura said she mailed it to her home address after she learned about the new rule when she arrived at the airport yesterday.
"It's expensive stuff. It's worth the $7 to send it over," Mura said.
State transportation spokesman Scott Ishikawa said processing travelers ran pretty smoothly. The three-hour time difference between Hawaii and the West Coast might have helped passengers in the isles prepare for their flight, he said.
On Maui, visitor traffic appeared to be moving briskly through checkpoints at Kahului Airport. Visitors said they had read about the alert and had packed items in bottles and tubes in their luggage, rather than in their carry-on luggage. But there were some who had to discard bottles and toiletry items, and the banned items had filled three refuse bins by 1 p.m.
"It's OK. You should be sure on the plane," said Urte Steiner, a visitor from Germany traveling with her husband and daughter. "We have to fight together against terrorism."
Waiting for a plane at Hilo Airport, Carmen Hannah of Scotland said the security was excessive.
"People are going to stop traveling because of too much invasion of privacy," she said.
Now living in Japan, Hannah said that when she flies to Scotland on an American airline, she has to go through an interview by an airline official. When she flies a Dutch airline to Scotland, there is no such interview.
Hawaiian Airlines increased the number of staff members to help with check-ins yesterday, according to a news release. Hawaiian Airlines is also allowing passengers to check in a third baggage item at no charge.
Star-Bulletin reporters Dan Martin, Gary Kubota and Rod Thompson contributed to this report.