Here's your chance to join the fray and be heard. You can respond to my columns and share your own opinions and insight.
Jim from the US writes : David - You are absolutely dead on. While I will allow some form over substance so we can feel safe, allowing these $6/hr hamburger turners to confiscate some sharp objects is folly. They wouldn't know a dangerous object if it hit them in the face. This was just a congressional sham designed to tell the rubes in the hustings that the Reps and Sens made it "safe" for them to fly. They should give this job to the Department of Justice - they are used to inspections, can profile (the most effective way to eliminate the bad ones), and know how to train people to use deadly force. This could be an entry level position (Junior Air Marshall?) leading to in flight security. It could work but it will take time.
Joseph from the US writes : One other question that never seems to get asked: How do you feel about being treated as a criminal in your own country?
I hope that some changes come about as a result of the USA TODAY article from some flight attendants who have complained about intrusive searches.
Today flying through Denver I was searched via some of those intrusive means, all the while trying to keep track of my laptop (on top of the cage, in a tray, 10 ft away on the x-ray machine - along with literally (I counted) ten other laptops). Trying to keep track of my watch and change in yet another tray, my traveling office bag with the rest of the equipment I carry, and my coat which I had to remove and lay aside to be pat searched (twice), wand searched up and down, front and back, then had to loosen my belt because the wand complained about the metal.....duhhhhhhhh
So I wonder when frequent travelers will finally get fed up with the hassle, the checking of your constitutional rights at the metal screen, the long lines, and again the feeling of being treated as a criminal in their own (and mine) country.....and start driving or not traveling at all.....
David replies : The 'stop flying' movement is a real and growing trend that I wholeheartedly support. At times it seems to be our only response to the unnecessary indignities now being foisted on us. I sure know that I've reduced my own discretionary travel post 9/11 and it has nothing to do with being scared of flying and everything to do with not liking to be treated - like you say - as a criminal (and without even the basic rights that criminals have!).
Nancy from San Francisco writes : I couldn't agree more (as in your excellent article, "The Unacknowledged Casualty of 9/11",) on the current "security" situation (and I'm a relatively infrequent flyer, who's only had to fly once since 9/11) - what amazes me is that nobody has checked with our friends in Europe, who've been dealing with terrorism for years if not decades.
London Heathrow is a pretty darn secure airport, as far as I know, but nobody stands in two hour queues to get through security (at least most of the time they don't - I was there once at Terminal 4 when they had a special alert on and the line was out the door!) - also, as some articles have pointed out, they do NOT have Federal/Crown employees handling security - I believe there are 20 or so Crown employees overseeing thousands of private screeners, and that seems to work pretty well - why anyone thinks creating another bureaucracy and forcing screeners to become American citizens is going to prevent a recurrence of the tragic events in September is just beyond me.
Just for my curiosity - I've seen several references in bulletin boards etc. that some of the terrorists bought their one-way tickets with cash - as a former airline employee I find that very difficult to believe - would that not have raised so many questions that they stood a good chance of not being allowed to board? (plus, because so many people felt it was ok to publicize some of these security procedures, I feel pretty sure al qaeda knew better than to draw attention to themselves in that way) - can you confirm or deny if the terrorists actually did pay for their tickets in cash and if anyone at the originating airports questioned them?
David replies : Yes, you're completely correct. Most European security is provided by private contractors and overseen by federal agencies. As for buying tickets with cash, in theory you are again correct - a last minute oneway ticket purchase using cash is one of the things that passenger profiling is supposed to detect. However, pre 9/11 I don't think anyone cared too much about such things, and - don't forget - the terrorists committed no illegal acts (until taking over the planes). The knives they took on board were perfectly legal.
Steve from the US writes : Wow, did you nail this one! I too feel lost without my Swiss Army Knife. The other casualty is the Swiss Army Card - the plastic business card that includes mini scissors, pen knife, tweezers and screwdriver/nail file. Convenient, simple, fits in a Daytimer. I forget I even have it most of the time. But not now...
I keep hoping business travel sanity will return soon. Keep up the great work!
Craig from the US writes : I'm buying knives wherever I travel and leaving them there - in desk drawers or such. I've considered mailing them to hotels. I wonder if any of the cell phone rental places are considering renting knives and other travel gadgets that we can't now take with us? Maybe my car rental company! I might just switch my strong loyalty for that feature. But I suspect some security group might just nix that idea with no logical reasoning.
Robert from the US writes : I sorely miss my SAK when I have traveled since 9/11. Nevertheless, I have no interest checking my baggage. Added delays and the prospect of lost baggage far outweigh the feeling of nakedness without my knife!
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Copyright 2001 by David M Rowell.