Flight Blog

Dec 13 2010 Find the Terrorist, Not the Bomb BY sgf-adminTAGS TSA


With all the fuss lately over TSA security screening techniques, it's interesting to learn how others do it. In Israel they've been fighting terrorism for years. And its approach to airport security is strikingly lucid. A senior Israeli officials sums it up:

'We operate on the principle that it's much more effective to detect the would-be terrorist than try to find his bomb...'

Read more from London's Daily Mail.



suitcaseIt was bound to happen...

Airlines now find themselves in court defending their practice of charging bag fees, but accepting little, if any, responsibility for delivering the bag on time. As one lawyer puts it, ""With that business decision [charging bag fees] comes the obligation to either perform the service, as promised, or return the fee. It's bad enough that most airlines now charge fees to transport baggage, but [it's] inexplicable for them to pocket the money when they fail to deliver this basic service."

Read more from Business Travel News.


Dec 01 2010 News Myth BY sgf-adminTAGS How the Airport Works


The great myth of the Turkey Day Travel Rush passed last week as usual. Well, almost. There was a twist this year: the new security techniques used by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Before tackling the security issue, let's address the first one — the mythological Turkey Day Travel Rush.

Every year, right before Thanksgiving, airports across the country get breathless phone calls from local media outlets. Reporters have one question. "How will passengers cope with the huge, monstrous crowd of holiday fliers?!"

You've seen or read this news story a thousand times…it goes like this: "Airports across the country are bracing for a huge rush of Turkey Day fliers." Then we see a telephoto camera shot that makes a line of ten people look like 50. Then there's a quote from a frazzled traveler. “OMG, I almost missed my flight because of the long line!”

Chances are this frazzled flier is an infrequent flier who wouldn’t know a short line from a long line because they don’t fly enough to know any better. Besides that, they may have arrived at the airport late and they don’t know the drill — they don’t know where to park, where the ticket counter is, or how to get through security in a timely fashion.

Here’s the bottom line: the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is no different than any other Wednesday. There are long lines, canceled flights, crowded airplanes, frazzled fliers. And the number of people flying that day isn’t significantly different than any other day of the week, or year.

None of that matters. The Turkey Day Travel Rush story is true because the media says so. The telephoto shots prove it. The frazzled flier proves it. Everyone knows it’s true because it must be… The story has passed into News Myth.

Now let’s take this News Myth and throw in those new TSA security procedures. Here’s how they work. TSA now has an imaging technology called backscatter x-ray. It’s a whole body scanner that is supposed to detect explosives, weapons, etc.

At airports where TSA has backscatter machines, fliers are generally given two choices: be scanned or submit to an “enhanced” pat down that includes touching your private areas. In airports where TSA doesn’t have a backscatter machine, fliers are randomly picked for the pat down. Some people don’t consider this much of a choice — be exposed to x-rays, or submit to a pat down, with "enhancements."

Before Thanksgiving several up-set fliers called for civil disobedience. The outcry culminated in a call for everyone to “opt-out” the day before Thanksgiving. The intent was that all fliers would refuse the backscatter machine and the pat down. Clog up security lines! Bring the Turkey Day Travel Rush to a grinding halt!

By the Monday before Thanksgiving, media outlets were in a froth. Between Monday and Wednesday, this airport received no less than ten phone calls from Springfield media outlets. We had nothing to tell them. It was like any other Wednesday — no huge crowd and no security protest. Nationally, a reporter for the New York Times described it best:

“By midday Wednesday, a forlorn CNN correspondent was wandering around during a live shot with nothing to report, with a nearby keening baby the only indication of terminal rage. No word on whether the diaper was breached. The pat-down story was the equivalent of vaporware — it seemed as if something huge was about to happen, but it turned out that it was a story about a story, the noisy, fervent sound of a news system feeding on itself.”

As astute as this Times reporter/news critic was, he still insisted that the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is “one of the busiest travel days of the year.”

And yet another airport Thanksgiving has passed into News Myth….


Nov 12 2010 TSA Heat BY sgf-adminTAGS TSA


The Transportation Security Administration is getting a lot of grief these days...

Let's begin with pilots. Some aren't happy that they have to go through the new full body scanners. "According to a letter obtained by The Atlantic, Captain Dave Bates, president of the Allied Pilots Association, which represents 11,000 American Airlines pilots, has sent a letter to other pilots urging them to refuse a full-body scan on the grounds of radiation over-exposure and an invasion of privacy." Read more on this angle from PC Magazine.

The pilots association isn't the only one chiming in. "The International Air Transport Association, the U.S. Travel Association, the and British Airways have criticized the T.S.A., saying it adds intrusive and time-consuming layers of scrutiny at airport checkpoints, without effectively addressing legitimate security concerns." The New York Times has details.

Meanwhile, at Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports, " Mary Gieser McCandless of Rogers couldn’t believe the aggressive pat downs of two women going through security at Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport.The women “were groped from their crotch down their inner thighs (two passes - not just one) and then again around their breasts - all around their breasts - in the middle, underneath, on top..."

In the meantime...

"A group of flight attendants is calling for a "pat-down opt-out day" on November 24th - the day before Thanksgiving – and one of the busiest travel days of the year..." Read more from KATU-TV. We could go on and on, but that's probably enough...for now.