Crime & Courts

S.C. air travelers feel anxiety on the runway

Everyone at Columbia Metropolitan Airport was aware of heightened security Tuesday, and some liked it, and some - well - could have done with less.

Amid it all, most folks allowed they were a little, or even a lot, more anxious than usual.

"She is really, really nervous, and she's really hoping they beefed up overseas security measures," said Angie Noll, 44, as she sat with her mother, Gertraud Fomby, 74.

Fomby, a native of Germany, was waiting to catch a flight to Philadelphia, where she would get on an international flight to Munich.

"When I am in the plane, I am not so nervous," she said.

Since Christmas Day, when a 23-year-old Nigerian with possible ties to al-Qaida allegedly tried to blow up a plane heading for Detroit, air travel has been hairier than usual.

Most new security efforts are aimed at international travelers, but flyers taking domestic flights at minor airports like Columbia's see tight security, too.

"They checked my bag, and they said, 'Oh, these items can't go on the plane,' and I'm like, 'Really?' " said Jocquelyn Turner, 34, who was flying from Columbia to Colorado on Tuesday.

She said security officers told her that contact lens solution was one things she couldn't take on.

"It's a little excessive - I'm about as much of a terrorist as they are," Turner said.

But Christine Greene, 22, flying in from Detroit, said she was glad there was more security.

"I felt safer. There was more checking for everything and more pat-downs. I was glad to see it."

Eric Dietrich, 36, who was traveling with his 3-year-old daughter, said security officials at the New Hampshire airport where his flight originated gave him a hard time about his South Carolina driver's license, whose lamination was coming apart.

"I finally showed them my boat license registration, which matched my address," said Dietrich.

Tom Warren, 67, who also arrived on a flight from Detroit, said security was "a little more" elevated than usual.

"Some woman who had Christmas presents in a bag, they didn't let her through," Warren said. "Other than that, it was normal - maybe a little more efficient."

Sean Fitzpatrick, 23, of Aiken, arriving on a flight from Cincinnati, said he was patted down, wanded with a metal detector and had his hands swabbed for traces of explosives.

"It was really quick. In two minutes they swabbed my fingers, wanded me and once the machine cleared me, that was it."

Overall, Fitzpatrick said, he didn't see any big increase in security. "Nothing to be nervous about. Just another airplane flight."

Elizabeth Phelps, a math teacher at Spring Valley High School, flew into Columbia on Tuesday after starting in Traverse City, Mich.

"I was definitely a little more nervous than usual," said Phelps, 25.

News reports of the attempted plane bombing made her more observant of security while she was in airports Tuesday, she said.

"I've been hearing about how they can't really detect explosives on a person's body," she said, adding she now is very conscious that metal detectors can't pick up everything.

Landing in Columbia and being met by her boyfriend, Justin Lampinen, was a high point of the day, Phelps said.