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FAA orders new safety measures

Passengers approach security checkpoints at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago Wednesday morning.  

(CNN) -- The Federal Aviation Administration ordered several stringent measures Wednesday to make the nation's airports and skies safer, while allowing limited air traffic to resume late in the day.

Flights diverted after Tuesday's terrorist attacks flew to their original destinations Wednesday, but the FAA grounded all other commercial air traffic for a second straight day.

Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta said the ban would be in effect until further notice and until officials assess airports' progress in implementing more stringent security guidelines.

The restrictions affect everything from curbside check-ins to a ban on knives in airport concourses to an increased security presence, both covert and overt.

Read statements issued by the following airlines:

* Alaska
* America West
* Delta
* United
* AirTran
* American
* Continental
* Frontier
* Northwest
* Southwest

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In addition, the Justice Department said Wednesday night it was considering placing armed federal "skymarshals" on some commercial airline flights for the first time in more than 25 years.

The Customs Service, which says it expects to supply 400 agents to more than a dozen major airports, headed the skymarshals program from 1970 to 1973.

President Nixon ordered the armed federal agents to fly aboard random flights to deter hijackers until a system of magnetometers was in place at all airports.

Meanwhile, the State Department re-issued a worldwide warning Wednesday to Americans about traveling abroad -- the same caution in effect since last year's October 12 attack on the USS Cole in Yemen.

Those who do fly, nationally or internationally, will encounter several new scenes and experiences at the airport, per the new FAA regulations.

Among the restrictions:

* A total ban on knives of any material. Previously, knives with blades shorter than four inches had been allowed.

* Curbside and off-airport check-ins will be eliminated.

* The use of federal air marshals, common in the early 1970s during a spate of hijackings, will be stepped up both on the ground and, possibly, in the air.

* More officers will be on duty at the nation's airports.

* There will be more physical checks on passengers.

* All but ticketed passengers will be prohibited from proceeding past airport metal detectors.

* Airport security screeners will be required to meet higher standards, and the contractors who supply the security personnel will be required to report to the FAA.

Senior officials tell CNN that commercial air traffic will be phased back in Thursday, and will not return to a normal level until Thursday evening at the earliest.

Most airlines plan to resume at least partial service when the grounding is lifted and airports reopen. But Midway Airlines announced Wednesday that it has suspended all flight operations indefinitely and laid off 1,700 employees effective immediately.

Law enforcement officials said an undetermined number of federal marshals, along with about 400 U.S. Customs Agents and 300 Border Patrol agents, are being dispatched to large airports across the country.

The Marshals Service said an undisclosed number of deputies are being drawn from around the country to help provide security at more than a dozen of the nation's busiest and most important airports.

CNN Correspondent Patty Davis reported a source close to the airline industry has called on the FAA to nationalize or federalize the security checkpoints. So far, the FAA would not comment on that. Currently, the cost of security checkpoints is subsidized by the airlines.

Aviation and regulatory sources did not say whether the variety of new security measures will be permanent or temporary.

The FAA ordered all U.S. flights be grounded for the first time in history after Tuesday's terrorist hijackings and plane crashes.

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