The Writers Voice
Airline Security More Efficient, But Is It Safe to Fly?
Gregory J. Rummo
NOVEMBER 6, 2002
The reason? — Several redundant procedures have been streamlined and a few imbecilic ones have been done away with.
While the signs warning about bringing grenade launchers, gas-powered chain saws, radioactive substances, propane tanks and unexploded ordnance on an aircraft can still be found at most ticket counters, gone are the inane questions about whether you packed your bags yourself, if a stranger gave you something to carry on the flight and if your bags have been under your control the whole time.
I always wondered what would have happened if I had answered, “Yeah, some bearded man with dark glasses handed me a heavy device with all these wires taped around several batteries. And — oh, by the way — it’s ticking.”
You’ll also notice there aren’t the multiple photo ID checks that have badgered passengers like a swarm of gnats from outside the security area all the way to the gate.
And you can even keep that pair of ominous looking nail clippers that would have been confiscated earlier this year.
During November, while making my way through Newark airport’s terminal A to catch a United Airlines flight to Denver, I had a chance to experience the improvements.
Going through security was a snap. And while my bags were x-rayed, I was able to keep my shoes on.
When it came time to board the aircraft, I was one of the lucky ones who managed avoiding having to step out of line for an intensive search. Earlier in the year it seems I was searched at least once on every trip. I maintain that was because I had a beard. When I shaved it last summer, suddenly no one was interested in rummaging through my underwear and socks anymore.
Airport waiting times appear to be back to normal. Much of that is due to the increased number of personnel at security checkpoints. As I rode the escalator down to the screening area in Denver’s airport I counted almost 100 white-shirted agents below.
This, coupled with a lighter passenger load has made for a smother transition getting through security to your flight.
But don’t think it’s business as usual.
While getting on an airplane has become
more streamlined, safety has not been
This is nothing short of miraculous considering security is now in the hands of Uncle Sam. But ensuring domestic tranquility and providing for the common defense are constitutional mandates of the federal government. Even though many conservatives were jumping up and down over the idea of federalizing the nation’s airport security, it turns out to have been a good move.
Gone are the multiple ID checks because someone finally realized it was a silly redundancy to begin with. Passengers still may not enter the security line without a ticket, but once through that checkpoint, fliers with a boarding pass only need show their picture ID once, immediately before boarding the plane.
You still might have to take off your shoes. And there are still random searches conducted in the gate area immediately prior to boarding although I still wonder how random they really are. On this flight a dark-skinned Middle-eastern looking man with a red duffle bag over his shoulder was pulled from the line.
The airlines officially deny they are profiling.
Let them profile. It wasn’t a blonde with two kids in tow or a grandmother hobbling along behind a walker that flew jets into buildings a little over a year ago.
“I don’t mind that,” one flight attendant told me during our flight when I recounted the incident to her.
United flight attendants flying out of Newark have a right to be sensitive.
It was United flight 93 that left Newark airport on that fateful morning in September bound for San Francisco.
On the last leg of my trip the ticket agent at the Midwest Express counter in Kansas City stamped my boarding pass with the dreaded “S.”
I consoled myself. A business trip wouldn’t seem complete without a total stranger rummaging through my underwear and socks at least once.
Gregory J. Rummo is a syndicated
columnist and author of “The View from
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