A Frequent Flyer’s Humble Advice to TSA

I posted this on YuBlog.org but I wanted to repost it here for posterity and all that jazz.

So on Christmas Day 2009, a man who was on a government watch list (but not on a “no-fly” list) and brought to US officials’ attention just one month ago unsuccessfully attempted to ignited a “crotch bomb” on an international flight from Nigeria to Holland to Detriot, Michigan.  If you haven’t been following, here’s the recap:  This man had put an explosive chemical called pentaerythritol into a condom and then sewed that into his underwear.  About 40 minutes before landing, the man went to use the restroom and 20 minutes later returned to his seat, pulled a blanket over himself and lit the explosive.  I’d tell you the rest of the heroic stuff but I’ll save that for the movie.  It had a happy ending though, trust me.

As a result of this latest attack, TSA (America’s Transportation Security Administration) has come out with a fun new set of rules to basically punish all of us innocent travelers.  Yes, I say punish.  Why?  Because these new measure don’t so much protect us any more than before but just offer more restrictions.  The new security measures include the following:

  1. Passengers are no longer allowed to get up for the last hour of an international flight and on some domestic flights.
  2. For the last hour of a flight, passengers are also no longer allowed to have anything on their lap, including a book or electronics.
  3. Physical inspections of all carry-on bags at the gate on all flights and “pat downs” of passengers concentrating on the “legs and torso” area. [Source]
  4. Air Canada is restricting passengers to only one carry-on bag instead of one carry-on bag and one personal item.  US airlines have been recommended to adopt the same regulation. [Source]

TSA just doesn’t get it.  Neither does the government or President “I’m Too Busy Vacationing In Hawaii to Rush Back When There’s a Suspected Terrorist Attack” Obama.  I half-jokingly said the other day, “I’m not sure that anyone making the rules even flies on airplanes regularly like us ‘common’ people do.”

These new rules feel like the gut reaction of a new parent who is at their wit’s end and just making up rules to deal with one situation instead of the overall problem.  Here’s my response to each of these new regulations, corresponding to their listed number above:

  1. At the most basic level: How is this going to stop a terrorist from just blowing up an airplane 2 hours before landing?  Even on a flight to Detroit, US soil starts more than one hour prior to landing.  Just saying.  Other things to point out:  What if someone is legitimately ill and needs to be in the restroom?  A businessman flying into Detroit yesterday caused a huge panic after he became belligerent when flight attendants dragged him out of the restroom at that one hour mark.  What if a passenger is diabetic and suddenly needs to inject themselves with insulin during that last hour?  Are flight attendants going to hand them a glass of orange juice and say, “Hope your sugar level raises!”?  What if an elderly person has a bladder or prostrate problem?  What about a pregnant woman who feels ill or a woman who may have a UTI or her time of the month?  Can you imagine asking a flight attendant to use the restroom and when asked just why it was such an emergency when there was still 58 minutes of flight left and you simply pointed to your crotch area?  I’d be cranky as heck if I had to wait what’s really an hour and a half after you land, get to a gate, deboard, then find a little girls room.
  2. Again, how is restricting passengers from even being allowed to read a book going to stop the problem?  Keep in mind: After the economy went south & people stopped flying because airlines were overcharging them like woah, airlines had to cut back.  Some airlines removed their in-flight TVs and games and starting selling beverages, food, Internet, blankets and pillows.  If you can’t use the blankets, pillows, and Internet that you paid for on the last hour of the flight, then you’re going to want to read or listen to an iPod to stay entertained.  But…you can’t.  That makes for some cranky passengers who paid a lot of money (let’s face it, prices went back up again).  Oh, but that shouldn’t get in the way of our safety, right?  A passenger who lights himself up in the back of a plane before the attendants even get back there isn’t going to be worried that he had to put his copy of “The Lost Symbol” away.
  3. I am not even going to touch this one.  No pun intended.  But patting down the torso/legs won’t stop crotch bombs.
  4. Finally, the one that hasn’t happened yet is making me the angriest.  So they want to limit carry-on items to one.  This means we’ll have to start checking more bags.  Delays aside, if you’re not flying Southwest or JetBlue, I hope you’re wealthy because airlines now charge AT LEAST $15 per for the first checked bag and even more for the second.  If TSA regulations are going to force us to check more bags, then airlines need to stop charging for the first checked bag.  It’s just too expensive.

I do have some suggestions on what can work to prevent or at least lessen the threat of an attack:

  1. If TSA is that worried about our safety, instead of punishing travelers, why not put US Air Marshals on board on international flights?  Create some more jobs, help the economy, and make us feel protected.  After Colin Ferguson shot up the Long Island Rail Road in the early 1990s, police officers were encouraged to ride the train for free so theoretically there would be more cops on board to take action if there was ever a problem.
  2. This is just a suggestion, but if a passenger is in the restroom for more than say 15 minutes on a flight, perhaps doing a little inquiry on the bathroom situation is wise.
  3. If airlines are going to go down to one carry-on bag per person, take away the checked baggage fee for the first bag.
  4. If security has to be tightened prior to the flight, then so be it.  It’s sorta alarming that TSA has such doubts about people getting through the already strict screening process (no liquids over 2 ounces thru security but you can buy them after the checkpoint, no shoes, no jackets or sweatshirts, etc.) that we have to still be restricted in air.

This is just all my humble opinion as someone who flies more than 15 times a year and has dealt with all the airline and airport hassles over the last 3 years that you can imagine [see here, here, or here for some examples].  Don’t continue to take away our privileges because we’ll stop flying as often.  And when we stop flying so much, our economy will take another hit.  And when that happens, then the terrorists have won.

Then again, maybe I’m just being whiny.  Maybe sitting and talking to the person next to me for the last hour of my expensive flight isn’t such a bad thing, either.  Perhaps I’ll end up sitting next to someone who wants to buy out nuDia.tv and YuBlog.org and then I can have enough money to buy my own private jet to fly on.  Hey, it could happen.A Frequent Flyer’s Humble Advice to TSA

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