South By Southwest Swag Blamed for Airport Delays

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/ Source: Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas — Swag given to attendees of the South By Southwest festival set off airport security alarms Wednesday, leaving passengers complaining of long delays as they tried to head home.

Jason Zielinski, an Austin-Bergstrom International Airport spokesman, said that a particular type of ink on some items was thought to have made it difficult to scan baggage with X-ray machines, forcing officials to individually screen bags.

Zielinski said he didn't know the exact cause of the problem, but said he'd heard it blamed on festival promotional items, including stickers, a free magazine "or any combination of things."

He referred all questions to the Transportation Security Administration, adding "it's out of our lane."

TSA also wouldn't say what was causing the problem or exactly how it was detected, citing security concerns. In a statement, the agency said only that "if an item in a bag is unable to be clearly viewed as part of the screening process, or if an item alarms, additional screening may be needed before the bag is cleared."

"In this case, TSA suggests that bulky conference promotional materials be packed in carry-on bags and placed in a bin at the security checkpoint for faster screening," the statement said.

Attendees picking up South By Southwest admittance badges were given a series of cloth bags with colorful logos that contained bulky, glossy event programs. It was unclear, though, if such materials were the culprit since the festival is awash in outside swag and small promotional trinkets, with everything from visors and umbrellas to sun screen, bottle openers and lip balm being given away by advertisers all over town.

A South By Southwest spokeswoman did not return an email seeking comment.

Zielinski said it wasn't clear how many flights were affected.

South by Southwest's interactive portion ended Tuesday, but its film and music festivals remain in full swing.

— The Associated Press