Bon voyage

JAMES BURNLEY, the US secretary of transportation, has, with admirable understatement, issued some advice: Holiday travelers should arrive at airports a few minutes earlier than usual. The immediate concern is that new security procedures for checking airline employees as well as passengers will create bottlenecks at airports.

The underlying concerns about the safety and security of air travel are too pervasive to require any rehearsal here.

A peculiar vulnerability often seems to attach to holidays, making travel all the more stressful. Tonight's NBC News special on air travel hardly seems calculated to reassure. And even measures so intended - such as the screening of airline staff, in response to the recent California crash - may merely heighten concern.

But as we divide up into those who travel for the holidays, and those to whom the travelers go, there's no reason everyone can't make it safely, with bags intact and tempers unfrayed. It's not just a matter of odds.

Practical steps can be taken: reservations reconfirmed, bags double-labeled, weather reports checked to prevent fruitless treks to the airport to fetch incoming visitors, only to find their plane hasn't even left O'Hare or wherever. By exercising calm and courtesy in busy check-in lines and crowded lounges - toward airline staff as well as passengers - we can be human shock absorbers to smooth everyone's journey.

And we can remember, with the Psalmist, that ``He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.''

Bon voyage!

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