Have you flown recently in a commercial airliner? If so, who did you see the most in the airport?
It was not the passengers on your flight. It was not the airline ticketing and baggage check personnel. It was not the vendors and shop keepers who are all over airports these days.
It was members of Homeland Security, the smiling TSA (Transportation Security Administration) agents. They are everywhere. They check your ID. They screen your hand bags, and for good measure, they pat you down.
To the department’s credit, they are all polite and professional. They appear to take their jobs seriously. Their physical appearance is neat and orderly. They are, in a nut shell, what a government worker should look like.
So what is the issue?
There are several. All these people earn salaries and benefits. This means our ticket fees and taxes are higher.
In performing their duties they unnecessarily slow down the process of getting from the ticket counter to your plane. And quite frankly, they are annoying and make air travel inconvenient.
Oh, but we do not want another 9/11. I can second that. Consider this, however, from two incidents this week.
One passenger got up during the flight and tried to open an emergency exit door. He was subdued by other passengers and a flight attendant. On another flight, a passenger got up on final approach, yelled All?hu Akbar (Arabic for God is Great), and began pounding on the cockpit cabin door. He too was subdued.
The point here is that the hijacking of the 9/11 flights was done at a time when there were no locks on cockpit doors. Pilots often flew with the doors wide open. This practice offered passengers a glimpse of what was happening upfront.
Homeland Security and the use of TSA agents grew out of a politically charged reaction to the amazing hijacking of four planes. Had those planes had locked cockpit doors, there most probably would not have been a 9/11. Never the less, some politicians soon realized fear would drive voters to back the party in power and showing force at the airports would convince the public there was something to fear. Once started, it now has a life of its own.
And there you have it. Inconvenience, higher costs, and questionable improvement in security. In times of deficit concerns this might be a fertile area to make cuts.