Monday, March 12, 2012

I'll-take-my-chances Air

After September 11, 2001 the world got a new scourge to deal with. I’m not talking about some cave dwellers in Afghanistan, but the over zealous politicians determined to never let another airplane hi-jacking take place. The consequences of this madness which has been going on for over a decade have been oh-so-costly and the showings are meager, to say the least.

The reality is that since 9/11, the measures put in place have caught extremely few terrorists. So few, in fact, that I know of not a single one. The ones that grabbed the big headlines - like the shoe bomber and the underwear bomber, were a couple of lone incompetents that were overpowered by their fellow travelers and crew before they could get their devices to work. Airport security did nothing at all to stop these guys.

The development of airport security in the United States has showed all the hallmarks of a blatant money grab. Requirements in recent years to install X-ray backscatter devices (the infamous “nude scanners”) without the machines even being properly examined for radiation levels beforehand, and possibly quite dangerous to frequent flyers, were pushed by the former chief of the department of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff. Chertoff’s own company, the Chertoff Group, is the one supplying the machines at a cost of millions and millions of dollars to the taxpayers. Meanwhile, more and more reports say that the scanners are ineffective and easy to fool.

So, the security theater we all have to endure to fly is extremely inconveniencing, costs billions world wide and accomplishes nothing. I mean, really? Take my water bottle and nail clippers? But the let me go buy a couple liters of 60% vodka in a glass bottle to take on board the plane? Makes no sense at all! Or at least not from a security perspective.

So, here’s my proposal; introduce a second category of security besides what we have now. A level that makes air travel more like traveling by rail, like it should be. Keep the few effective measures, i.e. the reinforced cockpit doors, the matching of passengers to their luggage and a quick walk through a metal detector to take any guns and knives off of lunatics. This would require only a minimal amount of time for boarding, and if one were to travel with only carry-on-luggage, on could print the ticket at home and come straight to the gate. Nice!

Lower security flights would of course only be allowed to fly to destinations with the same level requirements (and I suppose the U.S. would not join that list for some time), but I’m sure the benefits such as cheaper tickets due to less personnel and much less inconvenience for passengers would raise the pressure on others to implement it too. The people fearing terrorists would still have the option of going through all the theater so they could feel safe.