Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Post Airliners Terror Bombing- Departing Aruba

Our family returned late yesterday afternoon from Aruba.

Delta has always permitted just one carry on as well as well as a "personal item" such as a purse or computer bag.

Security at Reina Beatrix Airport was like I have never seen in 19 visits to the island.

1. When they say get to the airport 3 hours prior to your flight, do it.We stood in line for 20+ minutes just waiting to get

to the FIRST document verification BEFORE going through Aruba Immigration.
US immigration had only 2 windows open (one addtional for VIP's & crew members). Other US officials were at the gate areas.

2. US Customs were roaming the gate area with detector dogs.
The dog spent a good amount of time on my camera bag until he was redirected. The scent of all of our cats must have been to the dog's liking.

3. Boarding- expect long lines.
Upon being called for boarding you will be asked to place your carry on and any addtional items on a table for hand inspection. In Aruba the inspection was done by a private security firm as well as gate personnel with a Customs official overseeing the operation.
Each and every carry on, purse, etc. were emptied, searched and then re-packed. Most if not all items spread out in the search were opened and inspected further.

For example:
I carry a sun glass case holding not only the glasses but cleaning cloth and prescription for the lens. The eye glass case was opened, sunglasses removed and case searched.

Also in my purse is a small pouch with spare sets of house and car keys as well as a container of Tylenol and OTC sinus tablets. Everything was removed from the pouch and then replaced. As you can imagine, this is all very very time consuming.

Dh's carry on had all of the Christmas presents (think valuables not fit for packing in suitcases). He was the last person to board the plane. It took him an hour at the hotel to fit everything in "just right" so that it fit. It took him and the inspector both to get everything back in randomly just so that it fit.

4. Physical "pat down" search.
No wands, just hands of the inspector. This is the last step before heading down the jet way.

Planning on traveling to Aruba with "just" a carry on? Be prepared for lots of wrinkles. Inspectors really tried to do their best but watching the line of people for the Delta flight prior to ours, inspectors trying to do a good job and satisfying the numerous passenger complaints (yes there were plenty) just cannot do it all perfectly.

Welcome to a new world.

Delta boards by zones. There were two Delta flight departing yesterday. The full flight departed an hour late. Yes it takes THAT long for boarding inspections. Our flight was virtually empty so departed only 15 minutes late. Our flight arrived in Atlanta early but had to sit on the tarmac waiting for our assigned gate to clear. The jet there was late in departing.

After witnessing what we saw yesterday, to do it all over again, travel with as few carry ons as possible and minimize anything you are bringing aboard. Why take the chance?