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Comment raises alarm at airport

Aspen Times Staff Report

A woman’s offhand comment to a curbside baggage handler at the Aspen Airport last night touched off a series of local and federal security procedures.

The woman, whose name was not available, was apparently joking when she answered one of the several security questions commonly asked of air travelers prior to takeoff. The woman said something other than the direct “yes” or “no” required for clearance, according to Deputy Michael Kendrick.

The baggage handler reported her response to superiors, which “tripped the system,” Kendrick said. The woman’s bag was immediately searched – revealing nothing illegal. Two sheriff’s deputies responded and the Federal Aviation Administration and FBI were notified.

In interviewing the woman, authorities quickly recognized that she meant nothing malicious by the statement, Kendrick said. Local authorities then relayed the essentials of the interview to the FBI by phone.

“We didn’t think it was worth any further criminal investigation and we told the FBI that,” Kendrick said, “and they didn’t think so either.

“You just can’t say anything that even hints at impropriety,” Kendrick said. “All the agencies involved take this very seriously.”

United Airlines does not intend to take action against the woman, Kendrick said. Earlier this year at the airport, a Frenchman was banned from flying United Airlines after he made a comment to the effect of, `What if I were to say there was a bomb in my bag?’ during a dispute with an airport worker.


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