Travelers Notice Delays, High Security After Credible Terror Threat

Reports of suspicious packages put bomb squads on alert in NY, NJ and Philly

By Jonathan Dienst and Glenn Zimmerman
|  Saturday, Oct 30, 2010  |  Updated 1:47 PM EDT
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Jonathan Dienst reports.

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Passengers on UAE-to-JFK Flight Describe Military Escort

Two F-15s escorted the plane to JFK Airport this afternoon.
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Delays peppered the arrival board at Kennedy Airport.

The most noticeable was a two-hour wait for a plane from Dubai, where authorities found some explosive powder in an ink toner cartridge sent from Yemen on Friday. On Friday, a commercial passenger jet carrying cargo from Yemen landed at JFK under military fighter jet escort and its cargo was searched Friday, as parcels in transit across the globe were scrutinized after authorities overseas found two explosive packages from Yemen bound for Chicago.

No explosives were found aboard Emirates Airlines Flight 201 after a search, FBI spokesman Richard Kolko said. He said the plane flew in to John F. Kennedy Airport under escort as a precaution.  Earlier in the day, bomb squad searched for suspicious packages from Yemen at Newark Airport and in Brooklyn.

President Barack Obama called the coordinated attacks a "credible terrorist threat." Packages were found aboard cargo planes in Dubai and England and U.S. officials said they were increasingly confident that al-Qaida's Yemen branch was responsible -- and now travelers en route to New York find they're experiencing the ramifications of the global manhunt in terms of heightened security.

"They were hand-to-hand checking our bags. I thought they would just have to go through a machine, scan it and then let us go, but they didn't do that," said Muhammed Moris, of Jamaica, Queens. "It was a like a row of people checking bags and then letting them go. They never check(ed) our bags like that before, so ..."

Officials in Dubai explained the delay as a communication problem with the United States, so travelers had to "sit and wait."

One passenger said even the Internet wasn't operating in the airport before he left Dubai, but, amid all the police response and security concerns in the United States, people on the plane weren't concerned.

"It was quiet. Everything was as normal here," said Rashed Alamnei.

Many travelers from Dubai didn’t even know about the security threat until after they landed in the states, where they could compare notes with people traveling from other places.

Some flights were delayed but the vast majority were not. While some travelers experienced heightened security, many people said they had a very standard trip all the way through customs.

However, at least oen passenger en route from Brazil said authorities asked a lot of questions and took a very close look at his documents. Marcio Rodrigues, of Sao Paula, said compared with the last time he visited the United States, it took longer to get through security this time around. 

No one's denying it. U.S. Homeland Security officials have already said travelers should expect to see a more visible security presence. Combine that with the optional pat downs for passengers who refuse to go through the new full-body scanners and the result could translate to some further delays at airports across the country. 

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