Hopkins passenger pickup policy raises questions

Posted at 11:42 PM, Mar 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-23 07:44:56-04

If you've been to most major airports, you know vehicles at passenger pick-up and drop-off move constantly and in many cases, cars are expressly forbidden from parking and waiting curbside.

But that's not the case at Cleveland-Hopkins Airport. 

According to a city spokesman, the intent is is that vehicles should not be lingering at the curbside pickup right outside baggage claim. 

But Tuesday evening, with three uniformed Cleveland Police officers constantly patrolling, cars were allowed to park and wait for as long as they wanted. 

To check for ourselves, we set up a GoPro camera in our car and waited -- and waited. Half an hour later, we had been moved by officers up to the front of the line, but allowed to park curbside.

Officers told that as long as the person stayed with the vehicle, they could stay, park and wait. 

Drivers are continuously moved toward the front of the line to keep the flow of traffic going.

If the car is unattended, it is immediately ticketed and announcements are made inside the airport. Per federal guidelines, the vehicle towed shortly after. A cell phone lot is nearby.

“That’s a vulnerability. in a public space, just like in any other public space," said Fred Szabo, interim airport director. "And you think of the number of incidents that happened in the past at shopping malls, theaters and places like that.”

Security was tightened Tuesday, Szabo said during an afternoon press conference, adding that 800 uniformed and plainclothes security personnel are on site at the airport each and every day. 

After the terror attacks in Brussels, behavior-detection officers and K9 units were brought in to patrol Hopkins, as well as at airports across the country.

Airports in Chicago, Atlanta and Detroit expressly forbid curbside waiting, requiring those waiting for passengers to park in a nearby cell phone lot.

For passengers like Kelley Wittkopp, the curbside policy at Hopkins is a question of security versus convenience.

"It's tough to decide because it is so convenient but maybe safety should be first?" Wittkopp said.

Rinaldo DiCenzo, Jr., a frequent traveler visiting family in Cleveland this week, said he's flown to many airports where curbside pickup is constantly moving. But after noticing the officers patrolling, he said he has faith in this system.

"These guys are walking up and down several times and I'm certain and confident they'd spot things out of the ordinary and move it along," DiCenzo said. "Everyone is on alert. No one takes care of you better than yourself."