Thanksgiving Travel Stampede

Edie Falco, right, reacts as Bill Sage embraces her son, Anderson, 4, before Falco threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the New York Mets faced the Washington Nationals in a baseball game at Citi Field in New York, Wednesday, May 27, 2009. AP Photo/Kathy Willens

At Atlanta's airport, and at all of America's airports, this Thanksgiving will be more than just a holiday travel stampede. As CBS News Correspondent Mark Strassmann reports, it's also the first big test for 44,000 new federal employees.

Steve Tippo is an ex-cop walking a new beat, part of America's new security force trying to make every airport terror-proof.

"People thank us for being here. All the time they're shaking our hand. I'm glad you're here," Tippo tells Strassmann.

It's needed reassurance.

From before Sept. 11, overall air travel is still down 15 percent although Thanksgiving flyers like the Beebe family should give carriers a slight holiday boost.

"I feel, um, more secure, and especially with my children flying. Knowing they are screening well and properly," says Kenda Beebe.

The new force is also in charge of catching a startling arsenal, which slows down travelers.

Since February, the Transportation Security Administration reports confiscating almost 35,000 box-cutters, almost one million knives and 932 guns nationwide.

In all, 3.5 million reasons to fear flying were kept on the ground.

According to Willie Williams, the Atlanta Airport Federal Security Director, "The biggest change is all the new federal screeners in place."

"We are not 100 percent there. Security is never going to be 100 percent, but we are increasing it better and better everyday," says Williams.

This Thanksgiving, another delay could be lousy weather. Chicago saw snow today and flights at O'Hare ran behind as much as 6 hours.

That storm system should reach New York tomorrow, dumping snow and freezing rain and a test of patience on Thanksgiving travelers.

"I always expect delays when I come to the airport. It's like going to the doctor," says one passenger.

Christmas will be the next big test of airport security and efficiency. By December 31st, most airports will screen every checked bag, just like the carry-ons.
  • Sue Chan

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