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Airport lines made merrier by mariachi bands and magicians

By Karen Gaudette The Associated Press
Wednesday December 26, 2001

SAN FRANCISCO — Travelers shuffling through airport security lines during this busy travel time are being serenaded by mariachi bands and wowed by magicians as airports attempt to ease impatience and stress. 

Lines grew even longer after a man allegedly tried to set off explosives in his shoes on a trans-Atlantic flight Saturday.  

Other travelers have been forced to slip off their shoes, as the Federal Aviation Administration ordered airlines to step up scrutiny for explosives. 

Some airports responded by jazzing up what, for many, became an increasingly complex trip to the airport.  

Passengers have been waiting three hours or longer at some San Francisco Bay Area airports. 

“We had a whole program of entertainment, including music, a masseuse and a magician. We went to different community groups and asked them if they would like to come to the airport,” said Cheryl Demetriff, deputy director for marketing and public relations for Sacramento International Airport. 

“Everybody loved it. People were applauding and singing along,” Demetriff said. 

At Los Angeles International Airport, holiday carolers from local high schools sang and two Santa Clauses strolled through the crowds, handing out gifts to children, said Harold Johnson, an airport spokesman 

At Oakland International Airport, a mariachi band, face painters and a guitarist entertained travelers on the busiest weekend of flying since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, said Jo Murray, airport spokeswoman. 

Not every airport could afford such festivities. 

A deficit of more than $100 million this fiscal year at San Francisco International Airport meant foregoing Christmas trees and carolers or else possibly having to lay off one or more workers, said airport spokesman Ron Wilson.