Nowadays they have become more of a "feel-good" terrorist defense. Passengers and pilots are screened for everything and have their bottles of water and toenail clippers taken in the "search for bombs" while cleaning crew and other employees are not screened at all. The TSA does not, and cannot effectively, defend against terrorist attacks. That falls to the FBI and CIA, if an individual intending to attack America makes it to the airport than we have already failed and if the TSA stops them it is nothing but dumb luck. Yet Americans accept all of these intrusions and expenses for a false sense of safety. The T-Shirt vendor had it right "See Something, Say Something" is the single most effective last line of defense.
It is the terrorist's goal to make people afraid of flying and distrustful of the US government -- so in a way, making the TSA visible (their visibility being a "feel-good" defense) is in fact counter-terrorism. People do seem to trust them (and hence the US government) with their security.
Very true. I know someone who has carried a box cutter on every flight he's been on since 9/11 - over 100 flights, just because he can.
For me, the terrorists have now won: I won't fly to most places any more.
I won't fly because the security theatre now makes it so unpleasant, time-consuming and indirectly expensive that I would rather forego my holiday to those destinations I can't reach by other modes of transport that actually make me feel comfortable on the journey and welcome when I arrive.
That's a shame, because I would have really liked to visit places like the US and Japan some time in my life (I live in the UK). But how am I supposed to enjoy a holiday when my journey starts with my other half and me being virtual-strip-searched by sometimes dubious characters we can't even see and ends with having biometric scans taken to go into a database as if I were a criminal?
Just enjoy the bit in the middle.
(And no, by "the bit in the middle", I meant the holiday.)
For what it's worth, I haven't flown in over a year and a half, and have no intention of doing so until airport security returns to some semblance of sanity. I'm not being a "drama queen" about it; I simply won't pay an exorbitant rate for the privilege of being treated as a criminal because I'd like to board an airplane.
NY to LA is $325 by train. It's 175 to 350 flying on Virgin America.
(My apologies, I should have specified continental "international" flights, as that's typically all I've ended up flying in the past, with the occasional exceptions for vacations.)
So, you don't think your second clause there has event a hint of hyperbole?
(If the "exorbitant rate" portion is what you object to, see my reply elsewhere in the thread.)
The additional cost is purely because of bureaucracy, not the least of which is our security theatrics.
Members of my family have been left stranded in a foreign country when an airline refused to carry them because one of them asked why he was required to show the same documents for the third time in rapid succession. (The airline's excuse for this absurdly disproportionate response changed so many times afterwards it was hard to keep track, and I won't say any more because as far as I'm aware legal action for compensation is still pending.)
Hundreds of people from my country have recently been held in hotels under armed guard because after a diversion to a different country's airport due to the ash problems, they obviously didn't have visas, so they couldn't even get a train home. I'm not sure why anyone in a country these people never wanted or expected to visit would consider them such a security threat that they couldn't leave and had to be held at gunpoint, but there you go.
These things are not trivial, and I don't think a single one of those people would consider objecting to this sort of security theatre "being silly".
And you fail on the "bit in the middle", because all the unpleasantness that I described in those earlier posts happens on a single flight.
You were talking about the start and the end of the journey in your OP. I assumed the "end" part referred to the return flight. Hence the holiday would be "the bit in the middle".
I'm know that people have bad experiences sometimes, but you're making an absurdly huge drama out of it. Refusing to fly is simply not a reasonable response to the typical level of inconvenience.
>Hundreds of people from my country have recently been held in hotels under armed guard
This has nothing to do with airport security, but rather immigration policy. You're going off on so many tangents here I'm not really sure what to say.
The point is that almost everyone I know seems to be having a bad experience with flying these days, and almost all of it is directly due to the over-zealous security and related issues. Why should we "come quietly" and accept our quality of life being reduced in this way?
> Refusing to fly is simply not a reasonable response to the typical level of inconvenience.
I, and an increasing number of my friends and family, disagree with you. Fortunately, where and how we travel still remains our choice, so those modes of transport and destinations that offer a pleasant, efficient experience will benefit, while those that do not will suffer.
Just as a counterpoint, almost everyone I know is minorly inconvenienced and continues on their merry way way when flying. Mainly grumbling about having to repack their carry-on and security theater jokes. And these are people flying into/out of major airports (SFO, LAX, JFK, ORD to name a few).
// edit: Include me in this as well. And I've flown into or out of ROC, JFK and SFO ~8-10x a year (4-5 trips a year) for the past 3 years.
Of course, this just illustrates anecdotes and that people view things differently. Shocking, I know.
Hundreds of people from my country
Out of curiosity, just what country are you from? Or your family? You haven't said. At least, not that I've noticed.
I'm just wondering how much (if any) of his/friends/families experience is due to something unfortunate (such as racial profiling) vs how much (again, if any) is simply being blown out of proportion.
I've met many people through the university in the city where I live, so they come from a diverse range of backgrounds. I have noticed no common racial or nationality elements in those who have mentioned having a worse time with airport security.
At any rate, my only point was that there is a connection between the motivations for border/immigration security and airport security. Addressing the deeper motivations behind the problems with both should make both improve.
Neither did I -- that's why I said it was a tangent.
And we're not talking about wandering around at their leisure, we're talking about not even being allowed to get a train home. It's not as if someone is a serious risk of becoming an illegal immigrant, if they had no intention of being in the country in the first place. But there seems to be no concept of applying common sense and issuing emergency visas despite the unusual circumstances.
The experience of the Israeli authorities, is that doing this works. You have to do this 7 times to get through the airport in Israel. They can also do it quickly and efficiently.
I agree that aiport security is a bit of a farce. But hysteria of this sort doesn't contribute much to the political debate either.
I'm not sure that providing practical self-help advice ought to count as trolling, anyway. HN isn't meant to be a political forum. Strictly speaking, any political debate is OT here.
It's not hysteria, it's fact. I personally will not fly to many destinations now, because the unpleasantness and inefficiency mean it is not worth the effort. I have been finding out recently that several of my friends and family now share this view, so I'm certainly not an isolated case.
For comparison, I will happily travel between London and Europe via Eurostar to Paris, where the equivalent checks required about five minutes and nothing particularly onerous or unpleasant, and in fact the staff were friendly and helpful throughout.
You do seem pretty sensitive (e.g. worrying about the fact that people are "glaring" at you).
Are you a US citizen?
(Edit: And on the glaring over the passport thing, that is clearly not a deal-breaker in itself, though for me the arbitrary strip searching is, as is the biometric scanning to enter certain countries.)
FWIW, the visa makes very little difference to how you're treated. Same experience as when I've entered on a visa waiver. Customs & immigration are generally polite, often even friendly. Security is a hassle, but not an unbearable one by any stretch of the imagination.
Before I went to the US for the first time, a lot of British people did warn me about how awful US immigration officers are. But frankly I'm now inclined to put this down to the general British tendency to expect the worst :)
I wonder about this.
Do many people outside the U.S. think the way you do? It appears to me that many do. And yet, we don't hear the U.S. tourism industry screaming about people staying away.
Why not? I can only conclude that people are, by and large, not staying away.
And again, why not? Possibly the decline in the U.S. dollar vs (say) the Euro in recent years has offset the above problem somewhat, so that, while tourism is less than what it would be, it is about what the industry is used to (?).
I have had to take my belt off at all of them, and my shoes off once. The "worst" experience was in Israel where I had to go through my bag with the very polite security guards, and it took about half an hour. They were very nice about the whole situation though.
Basically it was inconvenient, but I don't feel it was a big deal and I don't feel like my humanity has been debased.
I've also travelled once on Eurostar and the security process was exactly the same.
My experience, and those I am reporting from other people I know, obviously only represent a small drop in the ocean of all air travel. It's certainly possible that we have collectively been "unlucky" and others have a much better experience.
In any case, I look at this more as a matter of principle. Clearly for at least some people air travel has become very unpleasant, very inefficient, or both, as a result of all the security theatre. This is a purely negative effect on our society. It has absolutely no merit whatsoever, except for politicians who can now say they are "doing something" about "fighting terrorism".
As with much done in the name of fighting terrorism, the measures initially only catch a few people. As long as this represents only a relatively small proportion of travellers, it doesn't cause a huge public outcry and a lot of people carry on oblivious. That doesn't mean those people would be happy with the way they were treated if their number came up.
I'm happy that you have, so far, been one of the lucky ones. I wish everyone was guaranteed the same experience you have had so far. However, as a result of the inconvenience I have experienced and the much nastier things that have happened to other people I know, I am quite sure that I wouldn't like it if my number came up, so I now choose not to fly on routes where that is a significant possibility.
Then again, a recent survey that hit a lot of the tabloids over here in the UK predicted that about 90% of our people would still fly despite airport body scanners. We're still in the fear stage with that one, and of course most people haven't experienced it yet and there haven't been too many high profile stories of abuse so far. Also, some people prefer the virtual strip search to the alternative of a physical search, so given the choice they would rather take the scanner. The wording of that survey was interesting, though, as it did seem to imply that around 10% of our population would simply refuse a body scan or avoid making arrangements where they might be required to have one. It was also interesting that in other countries, a much higher proportion of the population objected, in some cases a heavy majority. Of course, for now there are still alternative flights from the UK to many destinations that don't involve using airports like Heathrow where the scanners are, so those who object can mostly just avoid the scanners and go from elsewhere. It remains to be seen what the effect would be if the scanners became compulsory at all airports.
Just curious - what do you mean by that? Taxes that sponsor the theatre in the long run? Or... ?
See eg http://www.aerlines.nl/issue_40/40_Beundia_de_Barros.pdf
(and count me as another UK citizen who avoids flying as much as is reasonably possible these days.)
A slightly different example: IME it takes several hours to get through security and passport control and all that jazz at both ends of a journey, even flying to another country in Europe from here in the UK or back again. I am a contractor and I bill by the hour for some contracts. If I needed to go on a business trip to a client's office elsewhere in Europe, it would cost me more in lost income for the time spent going through the checks instead of working than I would pay for all the flights and accommodation for an overnight stay. (Edit: Or, for contracts where travel takes place during service hours, it costs my clients more. But someone is paying more for the downtime for checks than they are paying for the legitimate expenses for the trip.)
Final example: Yes, I very much do object to spending large quantities of taxpayers' money on measures that make those same poeple's lives less pleasant, when there is little if any evidence to show that they actually make us any safer. Indeed, things like the liquids restrictions or the virtual strip search machines are textbook examples of introducing measures under a climate of fear that would not have been viable otherwise due to popular opposition, where the benefits of those measures are doubtful at best.
I'd argue that they don't. A friend of mine was writing a paper titled How to hijack a plane with items you bought in the duty free, though he never released it. In the book Emergency, Neil Strauss mentions conceiled blades in credit cards, ceramic hair clips and other items that various people he talked to bring on to planes as "emergency weapons". I heard from a friend about someone who brought drugs through security by having them in a bag of peanuts or something, which he was eating on his way through (you probably can't always get away with conceiling items like this, but maybe..). If you really want, you can bring all kinds of prohibited items on to planes.
So, no, the security does not make us any safer.
And about the lines at security, have you tried flying to and from smaller secondary airports? Sure it might add some time to your travel time to and from the airport, but in my experience it shaves at least an hour off of check-in and security and the people there seem to be a bit more laid back than the people and the major airports.
Judging by the vast skip full of soda bottles every time I've been through airport security recently, I'm not sure it is what most poeple do. It's pretty clear that a lot of people don't understand exactly what the rules are, and just wind up with bottles of drink confiscated when they go through: you probably see this happen to several people every time you queue up to go through yourself.
> And about the lines at security, have you tried flying to and from smaller secondary airports?
All my recent flights have been between relatively small airports, but I don't fly much myself so I don't know how representative my personal experience has been. Friends who are more experienced flyers tell me that the queues at our larger airports are usually not as bad as what I've encountered, though, so I'm not sure your characterisation of smaller airports being better is an accurate one.
There are always someone who don't know the rule, think they can finish the water before security, but then can't, forgot about a can of soda in the bag etc. etc. Sometimes I drink a bottle of water in the line, and throw the empty in the bin.
The rule is stupid, agreed, but presumably the bin is only emptied when full, so no matter how many or how few bottles actually goes in, there's always a 50% chance of seeing a bin that's more than half full, so you can't really make any conclusions based on it (other than yes, there is some waste).
By the way, I flew out of Gatwick the other day, and both check-in and security was pretty quick. Perhaps 15-20 minutes between them, and that's been the standard pretty much anywhere in Europe and the US I've flow for the past five years. (Except for low-cost airlines that will allow you to check-in online, tell you to drop your bag at the bag-drop, then don't provide a bag-drop, so you have to stand in the regular line anyway).
I really don't see any mathematical or logical reason why flying in a plane should be safer than driving in a car (but if you do I am interested in what they are). The benefit of doing this would be huge savings in the cost of flying and the cost of the TSA. Additionally there would be a huge increase in the connivence of flying.