Spinning our Wheels  

There's a Feeling of Inevitability about these Delays

Its always nice to be proved right, but I really hoped that last week's column expressing concern about the implementation of new security procedures would end up as unnecessary worrying on my part.

What is the point of Congress passing laws (that the public have clamored for) if DOT, FAA, and the airlines then do NOT implement them as they are required to do?  We're spinning our wheels and getting nowhere.

Long lines to become a thing of the past?  That's the promise, but don't expect results any time soon.

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Good news and bad news for travelers this week.  Good news - a plan to 'immediately' reduce delays at security points to no more than ten minutes.  Bad news - delays on implementing the new Airport Security Federalization Act.

Good News

Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta said, earlier this week, that he he wants to immediately reduce delays at passenger and carry-on screening checkpoints to 10 minutes. What does the word 'immediately' mean to you?  Today?  This week?  This month?  Next year?  Ten years later?

Based on past and present performance, I fear that this plan will take a length of time that no reasonable person could describe as 'immediate' to implement.

It's good to see the government showing sensitivity to the awful airport experiences we all now are semi-randomly suffering, but let's not hold our breath while waiting for them to put their promises in place.  :(

Bad News - A Shameful History of Delays redux

In last week's column I detailed the issue of checked baggage security, which nowadays represents as probably the largest airplane security vulnerability.  The requirement for new baggage screening equipment was first enacted back in 1990, and now here we are again re-enacting the same requirement.  I doubted, last week, that passing another law would result in anything actually really happening, and now Secretary Mineta has made that official - he confirmed that there was no way that the DOT would have any of the many different forms of baggage security in place by the 18 Jan 2002 deadline imposed in the new legislation.

If it is taking more than eleven years to get the baggage screening in place, how long will it take for the 'immediate' reduction in delays down to ten minutes?

The Unacknowledged Casualty of 9/11

If you're a road warrior like me, you try and fly with only carry-on whenever possible, and you bring with you a complete kit of gear to respond to just about any eventuality.  In particular, and if I'm on an overnight trip, I will always travel with a Swiss Army Knife and a razor.  I'm a walking advertisement for Swiss Army Knives - I use mine for everything from unscrewing hotel room phones to connect my computer, to opening bottles of wine, to cutting up fresh fruit, and just about anything else.  Now, if I want to travel with my SAK (and presumably razor too), I have to check my bag.  Chances are that you, also, now have to check bags that formerly you could have carried onto the plane, or alternatively leave behind helpful gadgets that might come in handy on your trip.

We - the frequent business travelers, allegedly the most important constituency to the airlines - are the unacknowledged casualty of 9/11.  Our ability to conveniently fly has been thrown away, and no-one seems to care.  Why aren't the airlines actively trying to help make our travel convenient and pleasant, so as to encourage us back on their planes?  Instead they are trying to delay the implementation of needed security enhancements that will make our journeys safer and less stressful, while doing nothing to make traveling a cost and time effective business solution once more.

The business travel equation is simple (to me and you, anyway) :  As long as I have to do overnight trips where I used to do single day trips, I'm going to cut back on my travels.  That doesn't help the airlines, and so they should be doing everything they can to restore a reasonable approach to the travel experience.

Here's an open question to the airlines, the FAA, the DOT, or whoever it is that decides such things now :  After the airlines have finished strengthening their cockpit doors, after they have armed their pilots with Tasers and pistols, after they have trained their flight attendants in security measures, after Sky Marshals have been placed on planes, and after you have introduced special pre-screening and ID cards for frequent fliers - can I then start traveling with my Swiss Army Knife again?  Please?

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Originally written 30 Nov 2001, last update 30 May 2021
Copyright 2001 by David M Rowell.