Havoc at Olympic Airport as Security Tightens in Rio de Janeiro

  • Passengers face extra screening for domestic flights in Brazil
  • Rio de Janeiro to host first South American games from Aug. 5

Airport staff in Rio de Janeiro’s Santos Dumont had never seen anything like it. Just 18 days before the start of the Olympics, security lines were so long they snaked around the entire second floor of the terminal.

The reason for the chaos at the city’s picturesque domestic airport centered on new security guidelines starting Monday that require passengers to go through checks as though they were flying international. Travelers in Brazil are not usually required to remove coins, belts or separate laptops for domestic flights.

"I’ve never seen a line like this," said Claudia Regina, a staffer who’s worked at the same airport jewelry store for 12 years. "People were complaining and were stressed about missing their flights."

While aviation agency Anac said the measures weren’t connected to the Olympics, they were announced on Friday after a terror attack in Nice prompted Brazilian authorities to promise stricter security procedures during the games, which begin on Aug. 5.

Andre Luis, a security official for airport operator Infraero at Santos Dumont, said he expected further delays on Monday evening when the number of flights out of the airport reaches its peak.

In an effort to ease congestion, passengers were handed clear plastic bags to separate their metallic objects while they waited in the lines. Luis said the security measures would be heaviest in Rio but would also affect passengers flying into the city from other parts of the country. He said airlines should have informed passengers to arrive at the airport earlier than usual. Peak hours are between 6 and 7 a.m. and 7 and 9 p.m.

Securing the airport is vital to the success of the games, with several delegations, including the British team, training outside of Rio. The early morning chaos follows a security scare last week when a pilot had to abort a landing when a group of pedestrians wandered onto the runway.

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