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Security measures here to stay

Airport remains on alert after last week's attack in the U.S.

Mike W. Bryant
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Sep 19/01) - The word on air-travel security from both airlines and transport officials is simple: get used it.

First Air passengers to Gjoa Haven yesterday: Joanni Sallerna, Sharon Evelyn, and Kerry Egan said they were told security measures would be much more stringent for southbound passengers than for northward passengers. - Mike W. Bryant/NNSL photo

Yellowknife Airport opened to arrivals and departures last Thursday after being closed for two days in response to the terrorist attacks on the U.S. Sept. 11.

New security measures include check-in line interviews by airline staff, electronics inspections, and photo-ID checks.

"As of last week, they're still in place," said NWT director of airports Jim Winsor.

"They're likely to be in place for a while. I expect over the next month they (Transport Canada) will look into it."

In addition to the security measures implemented for passengers boarding planes, all air cargo flights within Canada will be subject to a 36-hour flight embargo.

Despite the longer wait in check-in lines and security gates -- passengers are still being asked to arrive two hours before departure -- both airline and Transport Canada officials report that the public is taking it all in stride.

"We've basically had very co-operative passengers," said Tracey Beeman, director of marketing and communications for First Air in Ottawa. "Everybody understands."

One passenger awaiting a flight to Gjoa Haven Tuesday morning said he feels security measures were much more stringent when taking a flight to Iqaluit last Thursday.

"Last Thursday I had my luggage X-rayed and this time around I just checked in," said Joanni Sallerna.

Sallerna and two other passengers heading to Gjoa Haven said they were told by check-in clerks that security measures would be much tighter for southbound flights compared with those travelling Northward.

As for Foreign Affairs Minister John Manley's announcement Sunday that "Canada is at war against terrorism" -- it remains unclear what implications it might have on Canadian Forces bases in Inuvik and Yellowknife.

"There is lots of speculation," said Winsor. "If there are actions by the U.S. and others, they may be activated."

For the time being, Canadian Forces Northern Area officers are reluctant to discuss any activities taking place at any of the NWT's Forward Operating Locations.

"It would be inappropriate to discuss security measures," said Capt. Brian Martin from CFNA headquarters. "Canadian Forces will respond to any directions given to us by the government."

Cancelling not an option

Local travel agencies, meanwhile, are warning passengers booked with tickets to the United States that they may be out of luck if they hope to cancel in light of recent terrorist attacks.

"The airlines are cancelling tickets on a case-by-case basis," said Key West Travel agent Suzan Finlayson. "There is no blanket policy."

Finlayson added that Air Canada has refused customer ticket refunds all together.

An Air Canada agent confirmed that only tickets for flights scheduled between Sept. 11 and 14 would be refunded.

One agent at Yellowknife's Marlin Travel, who did not want to be identified, said she was unaware of any airlines allowing passengers with tickets to the U.S. to cancel for refund.

"There's no such thing as insurance for an act of war or terrorism," the agent said.

Mack Travel office agent Dorothy Chiperzak said there have been many calls into her office from concerned customers travelling to the U.S. and abroad, but for the most part, people are still buying tickets.

"Two out of 10 are very concerned," said Chiperzak.

"It's mostly depending on age, if they're elderly or they're people with small children. I think it will take a while for people to come to terms with it."