ATLANTA -After five years of volunteering for the day shift on the information desk at Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport, Boyd McKoewn and Vera Addis were used to seeing their share of nervous mothers and confused children trying to find each other in the world's busiest airport.
However, the number of people in need of assistance has gone up dramatically since the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. McKoewn and Ms. Addis said.
New rules from the Federal Aviation Administration mean no more reunions between plane passengers and their friends and family can take place at the airport terminal gates.
Instead, at the top of the escalators leading to the gates, Hartsfield officials have created a standing area where parents, flower-carrying boyfriends, chauffeurs with name cards, tour guides and sons and daughters are corralled behind a rope, waiting to reunite with those arriving by plane.
The result, according to Mr. McKoewn and Ms. Addis, who work a mere 20 feet from the waiting area, is a traffic jam of people, many confused and many in need of help.
"We have plenty of people who have been waiting forever and ever" to meet their loved ones, Mr. McKoewn said.
At times, the crowd grows to more than 150 people, especially in the afternoon, when international flights begin to arrive, Ms. Addis added.
Most people, however, have been compliant, she said, and - thanks to their cell phones - have been able to find the people they're supposed to meet. And many people don't seem to mind waiting at the top of the escalators, as long as it means airport security won't be compromised.
"It kind of makes no difference. It's an inconvenience, but I'll live with it," said Greg Huffman, an Atlanta resident, who was waiting Monday afternoon to pick up his friend Robert Young, also of Atlanta.
Mr. Young used his cell phone to contact Mr. Huffman.
"It's a hassle," said Mr. Young, who also noted it took him nearly three hours to check in and get on his Delta flight because of heightened security measures required throughout the country by the FAA.
Most people who come to the information desk are trying to find out where to reunite with plane passengers, or how to page a passenger who doesn't speak English and might have gotten lost.
Ms. Addis said she's able to help most people, but that the inability to meet passengers at the gates has led to frustration for a lot of people.