Mary Schwager of Examiner.com said it better that we ever could:
After the September 11th attacks the TSA, Transportation Security Administration, was created to toughen and regulate airline security. Now that agency gets the Dumb and Dumber award for its “new air travel prevent a bomber security proposal,” which goes something like this:
“Since the Nigerian man who attempted to blow up the Northwest Airlines Detroit bound flight on Christmas Day 2009 tried to do it during the final descent to the airport, a rule should be made that says no one can get up from their seats an hour prior to landing. Yeah ! That’ll show those terrorists.”
Huh? Will that really solve the problem? The bad guys will just detonate whatever they’re packing during takeoff, or in the middle of the in-flight movie. Meantime mothers and four year olds who have to go “potty RIGHT NOW” will be tortured during the last 60 minutes of a flight.
Not only is Mary right about this latest asinine in-flight anti-terrorism scheme, she’s understating the case. A truly well-trained terrorist would not only NOT wait until the last hour of a flight to detonate his bomb, he or she would do it almost immediately after the takeoff when the aircraft was in maximum climb attitude and completely full of jet fuel.
Apparently the dodos at TSA and the airlines have already forgotten that the carnage of 9/11 was largely caused by the terrorists ensuring that the aircraft flown into the Twin Towers were fully fueled flying bombs. Had the terrorists staged the attack towards the end of an inbound flight instead of the beginning of an outbound segment, the subsequent explosions would have been much smaller, the towers most likely would not have collapsed and many lives would have been saved.
Then there’s the other kneejerk reaction to the Christmas Day attack, a severe escalation of the war on carryon baggage. Far from the Washington Beltway’s bureaucratic and industry lobbyist power hubs, it’s hard to be sure who’s really pushing the insane idea that further restricting carryons will somehow magically thwart a suicide bomber with explosives strapped to his legs or hidden in his shoe.
This idea, bizarre as it sounds, could have come from regulatory airheads or airline accountants, but if we had to guess we’d bet on the airlines, since they’re the “stakeholder” with the best motive. For the airlines, fewer carryons means faster stuffing and emptying of their flying sardine cans, faster loading and unloading means quicker turnaround times, which can add up to more flight segments per day for both crews and aircraft. Or, to put it in business school jargon, less carryon luggage improves equipment utilization efficiency and bottomline profits.
There’s also the flip side of the coin, fewer and smaller carryon bags equals more checked bags and checked bags have become a major cash cow for many airlines.
And meanwhile, God help us all — frequent and infrequent fliers alike — precious little is being said about the reality of attacks like that perpetrated on Christmas Day: Once explosive material is allowed on an aircraft the only thing that can stop a disaster is good luck or a failure of the would-be bomber’s nerve.
Which brings us full circle to a point this blog has — on and off — been trying to make since its inception: Scheduled air travel on major air carriers ain’t what it used to be.
Not because it’s unsafe, the sky isn’t falling here. The terrorist attempt failed. The Northwest pilots who recently overflew their destination by 150 miles because they were busy using their laptops to play video games or look at porn or do something else more interesting than flying a jetliner, didn’t — like their spiritual antecedents at Northwest — kill anyone.
But all these things do levy a heavy toll on scheduled-carrier passengers. Virtually every inflight “incident” results in delayed arrivals — delays that can total many, many hours if a plane is diverted to an alternate airport so the police can break down a restroom door to toss some poor diarrhea sufferer up against the wall. Substantial delays when a crew misses the airport and has to turn back and try again. Long delays occasioned by individual FBI interviews of every passenger on a flight where something unusual — like the recent case where a flight crew reported that two passengers were studying suicide bombing training tapes on a laptop when they were actually watching a Hollywood movie — occurred.
And let us not forget that comical, rather than sinister, headline-grabbing Christmas season flight “incident” in which Ivana Trump was dragged off a scheduled flight because she dared complain about a couple of ill-behaved brats running amok up and down the aircraft aisles. (Hey, hey, TSA, shouldn’t it have been the kids’ parents you snatched that day?)
OK. No biggie here. Ivana can afford to buy herself out of virtually any trouble she’s clever enough to get into and most of us who fly a lot have learned to live with the fact that the rules of civilized behavior are rarely enforced in regard to annoying children and their willfully deaf, dumb and arrogant parents.
But the point is that when the cops take someone off a plane, they usually do it before the other passengers are allowed to deplane. If the person being taken into custody objects strenuously, which is usually the case, the process can eat up a reasonable amount of clock time.
End result? Inconvenience, annoyance and possible missed connections for the innocent flystanders.
To conclude with another point we’ve tried hard to make from the inception of this blog: You can avoid a huge percentage of the hassles of 21st Century scheduled carrier travel — everything from the gridlocked freeways leading to many international airports, to delays caused by cattle-car security checks, to screaming child syndrome — by using an air taxi service for your short and mid-range travel needs.
To put it another way, to cut the crap, take the cab.