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Flights still grounded amid security concerns

Miami International Airport
The FAA halted all U.S. flights after the attacks on the World Trade Center.  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The reopening of the nation's domestic airports was delayed past a noon Wednesday target because there was not enough time to impose stringent new security measures, senior administration officials told CNN's John King.

"We want to do it as quickly as possible, and recognize both the economic and symbolic importance of doing so," one senior official said in a telephone interview. "But security is the paramount concern and we are just not there yet."

Read statements issued by the following airlines:

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

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A second official said an announcement was expected later Wednesday by Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta.

Most U.S. airlines have said they expect to begin limited service sometime Wednesday afternoon or evening. Southwest Airlines said it will not fly any planes Wednesday at all.

Midway Airlines announced it has suspended all flight operations indefinitely and laid off 1,700 employees effective immediately (see full story).

Washington Dulles National Airport and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport will open its terminals at 3 p.m. Wednesday, but only for those who want to retrieve baggage that was left at the airports yesterday.

When airports do reopen, security will be greatly heightened.

"Travelers will indeed see increased security measures at our airports, train stations, and other key sights," said Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta at a press conference Tuesday. "There will be higher levels of surveillance, more stringent searches. Airport curbside luggage check-in will no longer be allowed. There will be more security officers and random identification checks."

"I expect ... a whole set of standards (last) used during the Gulf War," says David Stempler, president of the Air Travelers Association, an organization representing airline passengers.

For the first time in history, the Federal Aviation Administration ordered all U.S. flights grounded after Tuesday's hijackings of airliners that were then crashed into buildings.

In coordinated acts of terrorism, two jets crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, collapsing them in clouds of smoke, while another aircraft crashed into the Pentagon.

A fourth aircraft crashed in Pennsylvania.

American Airlines and United Airlines both reported losing two jetliners.

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) was evacuated after the attacks. San Francisco's International Airport was also shut down and evacuated.

The groundstop affects 36,000 to 40,000 flights that take off in the United States daily, as well as general aviation flights. Also, no flights are being allowed to come into the United States from other countries.

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