14 May 2011

Are All of the Airline Security Measures Worth the Cost?

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.

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6 thoughts on “Are All of the Airline Security Measures Worth the Cost?”

  1. Polite and professional? Physical appearance neat and orderly? Have you been drinking the TSA Kool Aid?

    The vast majority of TSA agents are slovenly, insignificant, rude, pathetic, mindless drones, abusing what little power they have. Are you aware that at DCA, yogurt is considered a gel? These TSA morons give stupid people a bad name.

    William Shakespere would be proud of the daily Security Theater productions.

    1. Calvin, you should not hold back and say what you really think…

      The TSA is an advertisement for the dangers of government programs. They can and often do get a life of their own. The inmates take over the institution.

      I agree with Solomon. The TSA has got the wrong balance of an attempt to increase security with total cost (money and convenience). No security is not the answer. Something less than what is in place now seems more appropriate.

  2. My wife and I fly a lot. We have been scanned and patted down. None of the actions seemed intrusive to us. I prefer the nicer looking gals patting me down…but that is another story.

    Seriously though…balancing safety and freedom can be a tough issue and I believe the TSA does a reasonable job. I strongly prefer being scanned and patted down over someone getting a cleverly created bomb on the plane.

    I agree that a lesser weapon (like those used on 9/11) would be ineffective now, but a bomb…

    1. Mark, it is certainly good that you and your wife have not had any problems with the TSA. And support from people like you is important.

      The unfortunate issue is that (I believe) you are living in false security. As has been the case for over 30 years, a terrorist puts the bomb in his/her checked baggage. Further, walking through a metal detector makes sense, and if an alarm goes off, using a hand wand may also make sense. But intrusive electronic searches and pat downs when it is obvious to even the most uninformed that the person in question is a seven year old, is a bit over board…

      1. Or in the case of that Miss America gal getting her crotch touched four times… there needs to be some kind of common sense rule here. Does someone’s crotch need to be touched more than once for flyers to be secure? I think not.

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