Airline  Insanity
Overreaction to the threat of terrorism


Fortunately I have no need to travel by air, so I don't, but I am a bit concerned that the people who fly regularly are so willing to put up with the unmitigated abuse of power at US airports.

This page is not primarily about the quality of airline food, or sitting next to talkative sweaty fat people, or exposure to second hand smoke, cosmic radiation, first- or second-hand airsickness, stewardesses with tuberculosis, or crying babies.  I don't feel sorry for passengers who are stuck with a boring in-flight movie, substandard food, no sound from the left stereo speaker, air turbulence, "sardine seating", or inadequate leg room, elbow room, head room, or overhead storage compartment space.  And I don't especially share your concern about in-flight cell phone service or broadband internet service on board airplanes.  It's an airplane, after all, not a hotel lobby.  And once in the air, you're approaching your destination at 500 mph.  It's much faster than the bus or the train, at least for trips longer than 300 miles.

However...

This page is about long lines due to security screening, political correctness overcoming common sense (for example, searching Al Gore as if he was a terrorist threat), head-to-toe x-rays of every passenger, strip searches, wanding, groping and probing of people, no matter how obviously harmless, and the extra scrutiny given to people who fit a set of secret parameters.

Part of one page is about Big Brother's secret No-Fly List.  If there is a list of known dangerous people, so dangerous that they can't be allowed aboard an airplane, why aren't those people arrested or deported?  What does it take to get on the list?  Nobody will say.

The events of September 11 were devastating, but the surviving perpetrators of those attacks are no doubt enjoying the long lasting side-effects, including the enormous inconveniences presented to the everyday air traveler.  This overreaction is turning our once free country into a police state, under the pretense of protecting us all from further hijackings.  And some of the solutions are ridiculous:  Taking plastic knives out of airport restaurants is not a sensible deterrent to ruthless mass murderers!

The obvious advantage of air travel is high speed.  But the average speed is reduced considerably if passengers have to arrive at the airport two hours (or more) before a flight, and spend additional time at the destination airport.  With all these delays, you might find that your average travel time is little more than 100 mph — about what it was when people traveled by air fifty years ago.  Average speed by air, if I were to guess, probably reached its peak about 1990.

I am astonished by the number of frequent fliers who put up with unreasonable search and seizure (in addition to the other inconveniences listed above) as a matter of routine.  It seems everyone who travels by air has stories to tell about ridiculous screening processes which include everything but common sense.  Why do people put up with this kind of treatment?



This page has been split into the following subtopics, each on its own page, so you can quickly find the material that interests you.

Big Brother Waits at the Airport:  Surveillance, biometric IDs, CAPPS II, the Real ID Act, National ID Card issues related to air travel, the US-VISIT program, massive interactive databases, etc.

Abusive and Invasive Searches:  Probing, pawing and groping of airline passengers, head-to-toe x-rays, and general abuse.

The Transportation Security Administration  and the secret No-Fly List.

Airline Inconvenience, Theft, and Health Hazards:  It doesn't make flying any easier if your luggage is pilfered, or if you suspect the flight attendant has tuberculosis.

The Lack of Common Sense at the Airport:  The sheer stupidity, incompetence, and complete deficiency of common sense that airline passengers encounter at airports everywhere.

Airline bailouts, security lapses and false alarms.

Anti-terrorism policy debate and airport security strategy.

Guns in the Cockpit:  The debate over arming the pilots.

You may also be interested in the Northwest Flight 327 Subsection, which is a discussion of the suspicious activity on a flight from Detroit to Los Angeles, June 29, 2004.  A group of fourteen Middle Eastern men were apparently on a "dry run" for a hijacking, looking for holes in the national air travel security system.  All were in the country illegally — on expired visas, yet they were questioned and released after they landed in Los Angeles.

There was a somewhat similar incident at the Minneapolis airport on 11/20/2006, described in the material at the top of this page.  It is now well known as the case of the "flying imams."

The Crash of TWA Flight 800 ...and that of American 587.


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Updated May 3, 2011.

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