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Heightened security at U.S. airports

<font size="1">Christmas Day security was tight at U.S. airports as officials </font><font size="1" color="#000000">canceled six Air France flights</font><font size="1">, saying there was evidence terrorists planned a jetliner attack on a U.S. target.<br /></font></p>
Image: Security at LAX
Los Angeles Airport Police Officer Robert Corchado and his K-9 unit inspect passengers’ baggage in Los Angeles on Wednesday.Nick Ut / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Holiday airport headaches subsided on Christmas Day for the most part, but some unlucky travelers found long security lines and canceled flights.

Air France flights between Los Angeles and Paris were canceled for a second straight day on Thursday, after American authorities notified France that suspicious people were planning to board the flights. The airline said flights were to resume normal service Friday.

A lack of flight attendants forced Delta Air Lines to delay or cancel 33 of its more than 6,000 flights Thursday, company spokesman Joshua Smith said.

The problem affected the Atlanta-based airline systemwide, but by early afternoon all the passengers who missed their flights were rebooked on Delta or other airlines, said spokesman Joshua Smith.

Smith said he did not know why the flight attendants were not available. “It could have been the flu,” he said.

Delta flight attendant Andrea Taylor, a union organizer who lives in New York City, said there was no coordinated sick-out, but she added that many flight attendants are upset by cuts in financial and medical benefits that go into effect next year. Flight attendants at the nation’s third-largest airline are not part of a union, but some have been talking about forming one.

Few delays
Overall, the nation’s airports reported few delays on Christmas Day, traditionally a calm day amid a holiday storm of travelers. Security has been tightened with more extensive checks, car inspections and other measures since Sunday, when the nation’s terror alert status was raised to orange, the second-highest level.

“We’re doing a lot of things behind the scenes that the passengers don’t see,” said Sharon Sears, spokeswoman for Dayton (Ohio) International Airport. (But) we haven’t had any problems with security procedures,” she said.

Officials at major airports in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles reported no delays aside from the Air France cancellations.

Many travelers were understanding about the extra security.

In Philadelphia, Spc. Gregg Bly was waiting in the airport Thursday while traveling from Iraq to see his family in Columbus, Ohio. It was his first trip back to the States since January.

“I figured on a Christmas Day there wouldn’t be too many people traveling, but the lines were long,” said Bly, a transportation fuel hauler in the Army Reserves. “But I had no problems with security. It’s great that they have the security going now, compared to the past.”

Officials worried that terrorists might try to use biological, chemical or radiological weapons installed more sensors around urban areas in California and elsewhere to detect dangerous microbes in the air.

Security in the sky
The U.S. Coast Guard has upped its surveillance to 24 hours a day at ports such as San Francisco, where foreign merchant ships dock daily.

California Highway Patrol spokesman Tom Marshall said 28 helicopters and planes were flying patrols over electrical grids, aqueducts, major bridges, power plants and state buildings.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger ordered the patrols because of the national terror alert, Marshall said.