Thoughts on Air Travel Security

I know that airport security is probably pushing it when it comes to technology topics, but one can’t help but miss all the recent hoopla regarding airline travel lately.

I travelled to the east coast over the holidays (after the Christmas day incident) and had mixed feelings about the fact that security screenings were no better, nor no worse than they had been the past year. My husband got the extra “pat down” during our return trip, but stated that he’d been physically screened more significantly when going to a music concert. Overall, I find the current system to be more “security theater” than not. I’m sure that the current procedures do discourage some more casual attempts to cause harm, but when someone is determined its possible to circumvent the system.

While it’s important to look for metal items that could be used as weapons, TSA still can not consistently detect explosives on passengers or in carry-on luggage. Personally, I would be willing to bring less into the cabin of the plane and tolerate having it more closely screened, if it meant that I would have unlimited access to those items for the duration of the flight and would not have my movements unnecessarily restricted.

Granted this would mean making improvements in the baggage handling systems and require airlines to charge less for checked baggage in order to restore confidence in handing one’s bag over to an agent. However less carry-on luggage would allow for faster passenger screening – either by hand, machine or trained dog.

On Sunday, EWR was partly shut down due to someone entering through an exit into a secure area. I am surprised this doesn’t happen more often. Airports are busy often confusing places, filled with distracted people who want to be someplace else. What concerns me is that they never found the guy. Clearly airports need to take a sheet from the casino playbook when it comes to installing video surveillance systems. Hundreds of travelers could have avoided being rescreened and flights could have operated as usual if TSA could have simply tracked down the errant man.

Security works best when it’s unobtrusive and consistently applied. While random screening procedures do have their place, it’s not practical to make traveling more frustrating for the majority of the population by adding to the confusion with knee-jerk restrictions that don’t address the obvious issues. If nothing else, TSA does lend itself to some great tweets. Check out this travel blog post that calls out seven of them.

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