Costly and costlier


I have been traveling a ridiculous amount as of late. And there can be no doubt that the increasing costs of airport security really bite. It certainly makes me appreciate the wonderful sanity of Australia. In the US, your boarding pass and identification need checking, you need to remove shoes and belts, you now need to remove everything from your pockets because of the full body scanners, those scanners take time etc etc. In Australia, you skip many of these steps including ones that are adding about 90 seconds per person. And remember that isn’t 90 seconds of extra cost per person, that is 2 minutes multiplied by the average number of people in a queue because we all wait for everyone’s extra 90 seconds. And we know how much better things are in Australia as security lines do not discriminate between priority and other passengers.

And it gets worse. First, as Dan Drezner and Megan McArdle (and here) rant today, it is not clear you are actually buying any more security for all this fuss. Second, there is a movement to boycott the scanners. But there is also a legal issue regarding the full body work-ups that you would need to replace them. Penn (of Penn & Teller) fame describes his experience and looks as he might pursue this in the courts. Another woman has a much more unpleasant encounter. And this terrible incident for a child surely takes the cake on insanity.

The question is whether there is any way out of this mess. The politics seem awful as no politician wants to argue for seemingly less security lest something happen.

But that suggests a natural way to go. My bet is that politicians in the US don’t have to go through these lines. Rather than a National Op-Out day or something like that surely the movement to have would be to require all politicians, prior to boarding a plane, to go through commercial airport terminal security. And not in the fast lane but the general lane. Call me crazy but I think we might soften their stance on this stuff pretty darn quickly.

8 Responses to "Costly and costlier"
  1. I’ve long been of the view that those holding public office should be compelled to experience all services at the level of the general populace they claim to represent.
    Tell me we wouldn’t have better public transport, public education, public healthcare if each politican was using it.  And maybe a whole let less petty bureaucracy and form-filling…
    That’s my dream

  2. The ‘legal issue’ about ‘full body work-ups’ is just about adequately warning people what they are in for (which, of course, the bloggers and news videos are duly doing, which of course, is exactly what the authorities want. The whole point is to discourage people from this option.) But there’s no other legal issue for them. If you don’t want a ‘work-up’, then either get scanned or catch a bus.
    (There is, by the way, a possible legal issue with using full body scanners in Australia, because of our less clear federal authorising laws and contrary state criminal law bans on ‘up-skirting’.)
    As for the ‘terrible incident’ involving a child, it looked no different from any other situation where a kid just loses it.

  3. Surely it has reached the point where significant numbers of people are just going to quit flying altogether and go back to rail or road.
    If they bring this crap in here, that’s certainly what I’ll be doing.  I’m sick of playing along with the security theatre (and yes, I realise that travel by road is significantly riskier).

  4. Some people in charge are clearly not thinking this through. For example, an account of an encounter a soldier returning from Afghanistan has with the TSA: ‘This is probably another good time to remind you all that all of us were carrying actual assault rifles, and some of us were also carrying pistols.
    So we’re in line going through one at a time. One of our Soldiers had his Gerber multi-tool. TSA confiscated it. Kind of ridiculous, but it gets better. A few minutes later, a guy empties his pockets and has a pair of nail clippers. Nail clippers. TSA informs the Soldier that they’re going to confiscate his nail clippers.’ (Link:
    Not being a security expert or anything like that but Israel does seem to have a more secure and efficient system:—israelification-high-security-little-bother
    Someone summed up the Israel vs USA versions of airport security this way: “In the US, they search for weapons. In Israel, they search for terrorists.”
    Makes sense to me.

  5. DavidN, surely worth mentioning that the soldiers’ guns had (and had been confirmed by TSA to have) no bullets? You either let everyone carry nail clippers (and box cutters?) on a plane, or you don’t.

  6. The more salient point is that you can purchase nail clippers after security in the US! Why you can’t take them through security is a mystery.

    By the way, you can’t purchase guns.

  7. I brought that story up because I thought it was really funny and also perfectly illustrates how silly the current security regime is (again this is an opinion coming from a person with no expertise in security matters). Seriously though, confiscating nail clippers from soldiers returning from fighting an enemy of the US because of security concerns? Surely those resources could be better used elsewhere…
    Also, what if the terrorists start to send Jason Bourne style terrorists ala using magazines as weapons or martial art skills to hijack planes. Are the Americans going to ban magazines and books or create a database of people trained in martial arts and ban them from flying? I think the current security regime is a blunt and ineffective (as well as grossly inefficient) system that could be replaced by something ala what Israel have.
    *I didn’t deliberately leave out the detail that the soldiers didn’t have ammunition. I was copying from another site which used that quote.

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