Americans take travel alert in stride

An officer on patrol at Miami International Airport. Many Americans are going ahead with their holiday plans.
An officer on patrol at Miami International Airport. Many Americans are going ahead with their holiday plans.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

CHICAGO • The State Department has issued a chilling worldwide tra-vel alert, warning that the threat of terrorism looms large.

Cable news and Twitter carry round-the-clock breaking news of attacks around the world. Police officers patrol major airports with bomb-sniffing dogs and carry intimidating weapons like shotguns and AR-15s.

Yet on Tuesday, little of it seemed to matter to the millions of Americans who were determined to fly during Thanksgiving week, arriving at airports with a blase attitude.

"I didn't think about it," said Mr John Barragan, a 41-year-old real estate executive from Chicago, as he prepared to board his flight at O'Hare International Airport. "I'm just like, man, what's going to happen is going to happen."

Travellers said they were well aware of the attacks but they had calculated that the risk was remote, and they did not want to let it alter their lives. At Kennedy International Airport in New York, Mr Campbell McDougal, 55, said he had avoided crowds during his 10-day trip with his girlfriend to New York.

Mr Jonathan Zwerling, who had flown in from Atlanta, said he noted La Guardia Airport's version of seasonal trimmings: a police officer with an AR-15 assault rifle, and another with a shotgun.

Vigilance will be most apparent at airports, with more than 2 million expected to board a flight each day during the holiday period, the highest figure since 2007, said trade group Airlines for America.

Experts say travellers can expect more stringent checks and longer waits. Yet few are cancelling their flights. "I think people are refusing to be terrorised," said Mr George Hobica, founder of airfarewatchdog.com, a travel website.

Ms Christian Miller, a 29-year-old flight attendant for Shuttle America, said the Paris attacks made her change the prayer she says before every takeoff.

As usual, she prays for God to send six angels to her plane - two to carry the front and back, two for the wings, and a pair for the top and bottom. Then she asks God to ease the troubles on the minds of passengers. "I pray, 'If someone is feeling like they need to be violent, let my smile maybe change something in their heart'," she said.

NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 26, 2015, with the headline 'Americans take travel alert in stride'. Print Edition | Subscribe