Monday, November 22, 2010

Getting Through Airport Security This Holiday Season

by Thomas Hinton

There’s been a lot of huffing, puffing and whimpering lately about the Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) tough new airline boarding security checks. Some people are threatening to stage protests in the TSA screening lines and disrupt Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday travel for the rest of us. This would be a serious mistake. It would also be an act of pure stupidity, selfishness and change nothing.

As a frequent traveler, I don’t like having to unpack my liquids, take off my belt and shoes and walk barefoot through metal detectors or a band scan machine. But, let’s get real, folks. We live in an era where very bad people hate you and want to do bad things to Americans. I certainly don’t want to be on an airplane where the passengers were not screened because someone felt their personal privacy was being invaded or their constitutional rights trampled by a government employee. Are you kidding me?

While I don’t like to operate from a fear-based mindset, I know the terrorist threat is real and we cannot afford to allow the bad guys to slip through our national security net because a small group of well-intentioned citizens don’t like going through the airport screening device or getting body pat downs. That’s too bad. They’ll need to adjust to the times we live in.

Let’s look at the facts. First, a relatively small number of the 34 million people who have flown since the new procedures went into effect have been subject to body pat downs that have come under withering criticism in recent days. While the process is somewhat invasive, it’s necessary as terrorists come up with innovative ways to blow up airplanes and disrupt our way of living. So, until we can find innovative ways (to screen passengers) that are less invasive and time-consuming, I suggest we get in the queue and make the best of an unpleasant -- albeit brief -- experience. Smile, follow the instructions and just deal with it.

Can you imagine the consequences of not screening passengers? As we already know, it only takes one madman to disrupt a flight or bring down an airplane. It would be irresponsible and selfish for anyone to organize delaying actions or contest body scans once they are in line at the airport. It will only result in delaying thousands of travelers who want to go home and see their loved ones for the holidays. The TSA is not going to compromise on airport security procedures nor should they.

So, here’s my advice. You don’t need to like the current screening procedures or the time-consuming process. But, you need to think through your choices and consequences. Your choices are simple. If you disapprove of the current TSA screening procedures at the airports, you don’t have to fly. You can drive, take a bus, train or stay home. You can also picket outside the airport with a big sign that is sure to attract the media.

But don’t come to the airport with your bags packed and airline boarding pass ticket in hand with the intention of disrupting my boarding process and, possibly, causing me to miss my flight and lose precious time with my family this holiday season. I will not take kindly to your selfish and stupid act. Neither will those three huge rugby players behind me. They might just want to see if you can fly through a body scanner – head first!

Finally, be kind to the TSA employees. Thank them for doing a thankless job this Thanksgiving. They deal with enough idiots as it is. I’m sure they’d rather be home with their families than padding down your sweaty armpits and over-sized buttocks!

About the Author: Thomas Hinton is president of the American Consumer Council, a consumer education organization with over 100,000 members and 44 state consumer councils across the United States. Email:

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