The truth about airline security

Lots of people, especially frequent fliers, are upset about the new flight restrictions in the wake of the almost bombing of that Xmas day flight to Detroit.

Yes, the restrictions seem unrelated to the particulars of the incident (restricting carry-on baggage, when the bomb was in the guy's underwear?). Most restrictions have a low probability of doing anything other than making any attempt so cumulatively difficult that terrorists give up. So TSA throws a bunch of smelly crap deterrents at the wall and hope enough sticks that the terrorists stumble away from the stench. Obviously, this is not working well, and I bet it is backfiring. I suspect we are giving the engineers and scientists, who seem to make up 90% of the terrorists, fascinating security-beating puzzles to solve. Wonderful.

Yes, some of these restrictions are probably driven by the airline industry with little actual connection to security. We have a carry-on epidemic in this country, and telling you that 'security' is the reason why you can't bring a metric shit ton of personal belongings into the cabin is probably the only way to handle it. For security reasons, check your bag, or better yet, FedEx your personal baggage train to your destination ahead of time. The plane, see, is a passenger plane, not a flying storage shed.

Yes, airline passengers will be punished for the gaps in the no-fly list and the lack of scanning equipment at airports. Because those gaps are considered a given and serious attempts to close them were abandoned long ago due to cost or other reasons. TSA is operating under the assumption that terrorists will board planes, so they figure the best they can do is to make sure the terrorists can't destroy the planes they board.

Yes, there are security people who thrive on laying down more restrictions. TSA probably has groups of restrictions that get activated based on the incident. This latest round is what we get for a near miss: for a hit, they would probably ban all carry-on luggage and make passengers wear nothing but hospital gowns. And security people who dream this stuff up probably think the notion of balancing freedom and security is some kind of sick joke. It's all security concerns all the time with them. That's how security people are: that's their job.

Yes, the terror attempts are becoming increasingly inept. Three fourths of the 2001 simultaneous hijackings worked, but the whole concept was a one-shot deal. The shoe bombing failed. Now the 'pants on fire' approach has also failed. The Acme Corp. rectally-stored dynamite stick can't be too far off in our collective future.

Yes, it would be much better for everyone involved (other than terrorists) if the security people took a smarter approach to security. Like maybe putting the burden of proof on passengers, like is done for renting a car, buying a gun, getting a mortgage (post 2007) or obtaining a passport. Give everyone a safety score, like a credit score, and have security requirements scale inversely with the score. Airline travel is a privilege, not a right. Don't like that idea? Well, there's tons of others that are similarly outside of the box we are currently in. Like wearing airline-provided flight suits, for an extra charge, and in exchange skipping the metal detector. It will feel like being an astronaut: a new, fun airline experience!

Yes, those of us who don't fly often are snickering at your outrage. Some of you folks fly too damn much; something like 50% of all domestic flights are for less than 500 miles, a flight of little over an hour. Take a train, use a phone, drive a car, send an email. We should ban flights that aren't long enough for drink service. The helicopter and railroad industries probably need the boost.

What would you like to do instead? Because I think that a lot of the bellyaching about the new restrictions is coming from the same folks who want the TSA to go to any length to keep them safe, so long as they are not trying to catch a flight themselves. The truth is that you can't have it both ways, even if TSA was pumping out the most brilliant security procedures ever.


Autumn said...

I am with you BUT airlines need to allow you to check 1 bag for free.

Trackball of Truth said...

Yes, the crippled business model of the airline industry is so far out of whack that charging for checked luggage has made the carry-on epidemic that much worse. They should have charged for carry-on bags instead, or maybe increased fares to be honest about their pricing.