My last trip that involved air travel was in mid-December. Round-trip from Anchorage, AK to Columbus, OH with a stop each way in Minneapolis. The travel was as good as one could expect, uneventful. And uncomfortable. Air travel used to be fun. I’m just old enough to have had a glimpse of that experience.
It was not terrorists that took away the fun. It was the industry itself. But that is a topic for another time. The fun, or even a basic absence of aggravation, continues to be shoved further from the traveler’s grasp by a showy, reactionary focus on safety and security.
On Christmas day Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to ignite his incendiary device in the final hour of his Northwest flight into Detroit.
The security response? Now travelers won’t be allowed to leave their seats or access their carry-on bags during the last our of their flights. Mr. Abdulmutallab made a lame attempt at something. If he had really thought about the consequences, he would have acted in mid-flight when the plane would be less likely to land safely.
We take off our shoes at airport security because a man tried to light his sneakers on fire. We are limited in the amount of liquids we can take through security because some liquids could be combined to…
To what? And by whom?
I can’t carry-on my bottle of water unless I purchased it beyond the security check-point. But I can carry-on my flashlight with batteries and a bulb? That with my minuscule container of flammable hair gel and suddenly I have an “incendiary device.”
A showy, reactionary security force does not offer any security at all. It is in place to say to tax payers and travelers, “Look, we’re doing something.” A real security force wouldn’t be afraid to have strict, enforced, reasonable rules that are proactive and do not change every month or so. A strong security force recognizes an isolated incident and learns from it instead of assuming every passenger is wearing explosive shoes.
What does real security look like? Researchers studying the techniques of terrorists whether domestic or foreign, whether their target is wide-reaching or local. Know the materials, establish a solid and stable plan. And stop focusing on Arabs. Not all Arabs are fanatics. And not all airline passengers are trying to blow up the plane.