Why it’s time for airport screening to come full circle

Andy deLivron says he’s no threat to aviation security. But he flies with box cutters in his checked luggage — the same weapon used by the 9/11 terrorists. And he recently packed the sharp tools in the wrong suitcase.

By the time deLivron, a sales manager from Pottersville, NY, realized the box cutters had been misplaced in his carry-on bag, it was too late. He was already past the TSA screening area at Dallas Love Field and boarding his flight to Orlando, where he planned to catch a connecting flight to Albany, NY.

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DeLivron missed his connection and had to spend the night in Orlando.

“But now I had a problem toss the knife or try to get it home in my carry-on bag,” he says. “I decided if I could place the knife on edge in my carryon it would be highly likely that security would miss it again. Sure, enough I was right. My carryon went right on through in Orlando.”

Yes, you read correctly. TSA agents missed a box cutter in his carry-on luggage. Twice in a day.

And no planes fell from the sky.

“I’m an experienced business traveler and not a threat to my fellow travelers,” deLivron adds. “But imagine what a mercenary is capable of doing?”

Coming full circle

Airport security is devolving before our eyes. The latest slip is the TSAs surprise announcement that it would allow pocket knives — but still, no boxcutters — to be carried on to a plane starting April 25.

Why? TSA says a committee reviewed its prohibited items list “based on an overall risk-based security approach” and decided the knives, as well as selected sports equipment such as ski poles and golf clubs, could be carried on board.

Never mind that any knife can be used as a weapon. For reasons that remain unclear to many air travelers and to America’s flight attendants, blades will soon be OK on planes.

But this is as good a time to any to ask where this is all heading, and whether the last decade has done little more than make us feel better about aviation security.

Rewind to Sept. 11, 2001, the day terrorists boarded several aircraft armed with the same kind of box cutters deLivron carried to Orlando and Albany. Back then, the private airport security guards screened us almost exactly the same way we screen elite-level frequent fliers, passengers with Pre-Check clearance, flight attendants, pilots, members of the military and dignitaries today — which is to say, they walked through a metal detector with their shoes on.

No body scan, no pat-down or chat-down. It was a quick common-sense screening, and it worked.

If there’s a consensus among security experts, it’s that the meaningful screening takes place long before you arrive at the airport, and that’s where the failures of 9/11 happened, and why we now have a formidable new Department of Homeland Security, no-fly lists and pre-checks for every passenger.

No size fits all

When TSA Administrator John Pistole says we’re moving away from a “one size fits all” approach to security, what he really means is that we are returning to airport screening that actually works, which is pretty much what we had before 9/11.

I’m confident the TSA won’t contact me to find out the specifics of deLivron’s flight because it knows that stuff gets through its vaunted 20 layers of security, and it knows there’s nothing it can do about it.

But that should be reassuring to all of us, in a way.

The faster the agency assigned to protect America’s transportation systems returns to a common-sense screening approach, the better off all travelers will be. And by “common sense” I mean decommissioning the hated full-body scanners, banning “enhanced” pat-downs, retraining agents in the basics of customer service, allowing all passengers to leave their shoes on and travel with liquids, and using metal detectors as a primary screening method.

The heavy lifting of airport security should take place long before you arrive at the terminal. That’s where your name should be vetted and compared against a list of known terrorists. That’s where they’ll catch the next hijacker.

Eventually, we will come full circle and airport screenings will devolve to where they were before 9/11. It’s only a matter of time.

Should we return to pre 9/11 airport screening techniques?

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99 thoughts on “Why it’s time for airport screening to come full circle

        1. And I ask again how were pre-TSA screeners ineffective?

          And funny how during my times flying before the TSA, I don’t once recall being felt up.

  1. “Before the airport” IS where terrorists have been stopped since 9/11. When ground intelligence has been ignored, we’ve had problems (underwear bomber). The 9/11 terrorists got through security with items that were allowed on planes at that time, not because security was bad or lacking. It’s not like before then, plane were being hijacked or blown up every week. The new security process is Kabuki theatre. Put on a big show, make people “feel” safe but treat them as though they are guilty of some crime and must be proven innocent? The fact that you can pay for the Pre-Check program, or can go through the expedited security line if you are an elite level flier (read: spend the most money) proves that in my opinion.

    1. I just want to clarify that yes, you can pay for PreCheck by enrolling in one of the expedited border clearance programs, regardless of frequent flyer status. But, GlobalEntry is a whopping $100 for five years, hardly a 1% only club if you fly several times a year. It also requires you to have a US Passport, increasing the security of your travel documents, be fingerprinted and submit to a fairly extensive background check.

      1. Global Entry should not be described as a “whopping” $100. It is effective for 5 years…so that comes out to $20 per year…or $1.66 per month. This amount is far less than a cup of coffee.
        Just wait until you are in line for over an hour and look over and see the rest of us use the kiosk and just breeze out of the airport.

        1. I consider it a real bargain. Arrived at O’Hare, which I’ve been told has been notorious lately for getting through, but I went from the jetway to free and clear in about three minutes. It’s worth every penny.

        2. My use of “whopping” was sarcasm, which I had hoped would be conveyed by context. I love Global Entry. It has saved me uncountable missed connections.

      2. I have trouble believing any government claims about the extent of background checks. The SSBI is allegedly as extensive as it gets, and yet FBI and CIA both thought it was perfectly fine to give Nada Nadim Prouty a clearance when she wasn’t even lawfully present in the US.

        I’ll grant that Global Entry most likely proves that you have $100 and a valid US passport, but those two facts can also be proved by a) buying the ticket and b) validating the passport’s X.509 certificate, and are completely irrelevant to TSA’s stated purpose (as opposed to their actual purpose—which as far as anybody can tell is protecting airport revenue).

  2. This is something I have been saying for some time. 9/11 was not a failure of the screening system, but of the intelligence agencies. It’s time we get out of the knee-jerk reaction mode and get back to common sense screening.

  3. “what he really means is that we are returning to airport screening that actually works, which is pretty much what we had before 9/11”
    Regardless of anyone’s position about the value of security, this is a pretty bold statement. So you’re saying that airport security worked pre-9/11? I’m not saying that it works now, but I think there’s sufficient evidence to say that 9/11 qualifies as a failure no matter how you spin it.

    1. “I think there’s sufficient evidence to say that 9/11 qualifies as a failure no matter how you spin it.”

      Yes, there was a failure that occurred that caused 9/11. However, that failure was not with the airport security. No airport security procedure was circumvented or violated.

      1. That’s precisely my point. No security procedure was circumvented or violated, yet thousands of people died. Perhaps there should have been other security procedures in place.
        To be clear, I’m no TSA apologist. I think the current security measures, at best, as joke, but even worse in many ways that I won’t get into here. My point is that if we romanticize the past security and say that such measures were successful, we’re flat out wrong. Like it or not, the screeners are the last in a series of security measures that can prevent terrorist attacks. Separating out “screening” from “intelligence” is what I think was wrong with the old system. Why should we return to a system where screeners are only looking for *some* weapons instead of working closely with the “front-end” of security (intelligence). I just think it’s in really poor taste, particularly when you consider how many lives are lost, to suggest that the “old screening” was effective.

        1. >> Like it or not, the screeners are the last in a series of security measures …

          Actually, no they are not. They are government employees whose sole job is to keep certain items off planes, items that others in government have declared, for better or worse, to be prohibited on-board planes.

          They’re not spies. They’re not detectives.

          And besides, Marie, don’t you think that if one of these terrorists got his bomb as far as the checkpoint, that it’s a bit too late?

          1. That’s the problem with the current system. They *are* simply hired hands. Why not professionalize that role? Why remove the intelligence side from the process. If you’re looking for terrorists, and you think they’re boarding planes, then why not have intelligence *also* (not *only*) represented in the place they expect to find them.

          2. The Fourth Amendment has already been eviscerated through the “special needs administrative search exceptions” under which airport checkpoints are allowed to operate.

            What you propose is a complete elimination of the Fourth Amendment. You propose a system where airport screeners have full latitude to interrogate and detain passengers without any legal recourse. You propose a system where checkpoints are turned into criminal dragnets.

            Upwards of two million passengers a day pass through checkpoints. What sort of “intelligence-driven” checkpoints do you envision? Without specifics you’re just talking platitudes.

          3. Again, I’m not claiming to know how it could work. What I’m saying is that our current system doesn’t work. The old system didn’t work either. It makes sense to me that instead of having poorly trained people that are given a badge and a big ego, you have trained professionals who know what to look for and understand the rights of those they are vetting.

          4. Just how exactly did the old pre-9/11 system not work when it came to the screeners? You mentioned efficiency earlier but by the lines to get screened, seemed the old way was more efficient.

          5. Where did the old system not work? The last time a plane leaving a US airport was bombed was way back in 1962. Seems like a pretty darned good track record to me.

            If a passenger does not have any prohibited items on their person or in their bags as they transit the checkpoint, how do you propose any checkpoint worker divine that the passenger has ill-intent? Should screeners be given free rein to grill and interrogate a passenger about the most intimate aspects of their lives?

            Your mantra of “intelligence-driven screeners” sounds great on paper (or on screen). But it’s drivel without further clarification.

          6. September 11, 2001. It didn’t work because it failed to keep 19 people from getting on planes and then bringthem down. Did security fulfill their job obligations that day? Yes, because their jobs were to look for specific weapons. Did it meet the purpose of having airport security? Most definitely not. What we learned from 9/11, I hope, is that the purpose of screening is to keep flights safe from actions of individuals on those flights. Before 9/11 we thought the risk was bombs and guns. We have a broader understanding of that risk now. Claiming that pre 9/11 security was effective is just wrong. It failed. And it failed for thousands of people. At best, and even though I don’t think that Chris meant it this way, it is insensitive to those lost family, friends, or colleages on that day.

          7. Marie, no one is arguing that the events of 9/11/01 were a gross *intelligence* failure.

            But I ask again: when those 19 hijackers presented themselves at the checkpoint (I’m assuming their boarding passes did not have a big “HIJACKER” red stamp on them), if they had no prohibited items on them, then on what grounds should they have been denied access to the flight? This debate is about airport checkpoints, and you continue to evade any details about the grounds by which checkpoint workers should be able to deny a passenger boarding if they are not carrying any prohibited items.

        2. “Separating out “screening” from “intelligence” is what I think was wrong with the old system.”

          Don’t confuse screening with security. The only purpose screening serves is to keep prohibited items off the plane, not determine if the person carrying the item had nefarious purposes in mind. That is the job of the intelligence agencies. By the time a person gets to the screening area, it’s too late to determine their goals.

          1. I’m really not sure why anyone has a problem with what I am suggesting. That screeners work *with* intelligence? Have professionals in screening roles? Work with real information during the screening process? Why is it too late to use intelligence when screening?

          2. What type of intelligence are you wanting the screener to have? If there is a specific threat, the intelligence agencies should be acting on it before it gets anywhere near the airport.

          3. “Why is it too late to use intelligence when screening?”

            What does this mean? Again, without specifics, you’re not really saying anything.

          4. I’m not sure what you mean by “Work with real information during the screening process.” Do you mean background checks for everyone who flies?

        3. Sorry, Marie3656, but I find it to be in really poor taste that you use the deaths of almost 3000 people, eleven years ago, to justify the violative, unconstitutional policies of our current TSA, while demonizing the pre-9/11 policies that managed to keep planes from being blown out of the sky for decades. (The Lockerbie tragedy resulted from a bomb in checked baggage.)

          Horrific acts of terrorism that kill people en masse is not something that began on 9/11. Perhaps in the opinion of Americans it is–after all, this was the first such attack by foreigners on American soil during a putative time of “peace”. But ask some Brits, ask some Irish folks, ask Europeans, ask the Israelis and Palestinians and citizens of numerous countries in North, Central, and Southern Africa–they’ll tell you all about it.

          You’re basing your arguments for searching for every object or substance that could conceivably be a weapon (or used as one)–as opposed to looking for “some” (as in, specific) weapons or substances–by citing the horribleness of a unique and exceedingly rare terrorist event, despite the likelihood of it happening again and killing you is less than that of your being struck by lightning. Four times.

          Moreover, the list of objects or substances that can be used as weapons is long and varied, and it contains a plethora or ordinary items, the quantity of which make it not just impractical but impossible to search for and seize. String. Yarn. Chopsticks used in hair, and even some barrettes. Pencils. High heels. Medium heels. The recently-permitted baseball bats and golf-clubs. The hands and knuckles and foot bones of anyone who’s studied full-contact karate, including Yours Truly.

          Intelligence is the answer–stop the terrorists long before they get to the airport. Stop wasting money and time–and stop stripping the bodies and dignity–of millions of Americans who merely seek to travel from Point A to Point B in their own country.

          1. You must be confusing me with someone else. I do not support the current policies of the TSA. So, no, I did not ” use the deaths of almost 3000 people, eleven years ago, to justify the violative, unconstitutional policies of our current TSA.” Nor did I “demonize” (mighty strong word there) the pre 9-11 policies. What I’ve said many times, and I’ll continue to say it is:
            1) The policies did not work on that day. (Yes, procedures were followed, but those procedures did not stop this from happening). Shouldn’t we have policies (intelligence and screening combined) that would stop this? And if those policies don’t work as they didn’t on 9/11, then they should be changed. The fact is that intelligence did fail, but terrorists were looking to blow up a cornfield or a Wal-mart. Airplanes are prime targets for terrorists and have been for decades. That would suggest that intelligence and sceening should be a little more related.
            2) I am not saying that we stop allowing normal items on flights. I’m not even saying that we don’t allow box-cutters on flights. I’m saying that we need to change something about how we’re screening in order to minimize the risk of something bad happening.
            3) I do not claim to know what those policies should be, but I know that current TSA isn’t working, pre-TSA didn’t work, time to look for a new solution.
            4) Such a solution need not violate our rights.
            5) I agree intelligence is the answer. No reason we can’t have a little intelligence working with the TSA because there certainly is a lack of it there now. 🙂

    2. And how, exactly, did airport security contribute to 9/11?

      The terrorists were mostly or completely known to our government before they boarded the planes, but nothing was done. Cockpit doors were not secured. Passengers were expected to be submissive during hijackings.

      THESE are the reasons 9/11 occurred. Not because a box cutter was brought on board – a ‘weapon’ that still gets through security on a regular, if not daily, basis and there hasn’t been another hijacking.

      1. “THESE are the reasons 9/11 occurred.”

        And the sooner people realize that, the sooner we can get rid of the TSA!

      2. By not being effective. That’s it. It didn’t work. Perhaps if the procedure had included screening based on intelligence, that would have prevented it. I don’t know. I’m not going to claim to know what would work better. But clearly neither TSA2013 nor screening 2001 is effective.

          1. No need to be sarcastic. I believe there are ways for the intelligence side to work more closely with the screening side. Perhaps modifying the screening procedures based on intelligence information. Perhaps asking targeted questions. I don’t know. I’m not going to claim to know, but I do believe there is a better way.

          2. No passenger flying within the borders of this country should need to be subjected to any sorts of questioning and interrogation. Airports are not courtrooms.

          3. “Airports are not courtrooms.”

            And airport security areas are not fiefdoms, contrary to what TSA believes.

          4. I strongly disagree with your idea of “modifying the screening procedures based on intelligence information.”

            As a law-abiding American citizen, no government agency should be gathering intelligence on me or interrogating me based solely upon my desire or need to travel domestically.

    3. I must agree with fellow commenters, the government knew about the hijackers, our intelligence community did not pass this information along, and everything that the hijackers had with them were perfectly legal items at the time. Had our intelligence community passed along the information that they had, this would most likely had been prevented.

  4. Private security has already proven itself unable to perform adequately – not only on 9/11 but all the preceding hijackings. In a free market, the airlines involved would have been sued into oblivion. The American Taxpayer bailed that industry out.

    The TSA operations can certainly be improved by accepting more risk, but I am afraid that the public wants things both ways – less security but no incidents.

    What is an acceptable rate of aerial hijackings? Once we answer that question, we can tailor our security program to achieve that metric. Zero – the current perceived goal – is unattainable and it’s damn expensive to get as close to that as we are.

    1. “Private security has already proven itself unable to perform adequately – not only on 9/11 but all the preceding hijackings.”

      What exactly did the private security fail to do that allowed 9/11 to happen? There was no security procedures violated by the hijackers so blaming the private screens for what happened is not a valid statement. Before 9/11, when was the last hijacking of a plane taking off from a US airport? Sometime in the 70’s? So your saying the private security in place during the previous 30 years before 9/11 didn’t work? How do you come to that conclusion?

      1. Security is much more than they guy pawing through your luggage. Part of security is developing security procedures.

    2. Jim, how did the terrorists get in and stay in the USA in the first place. Isn’t that a failure of some of the most expensive departments in our government? Did anyone get fired after that?

        1. Probably. Though remember they entered on Saudi Arabia passports which do not require a Visa [CORRECTION BELOW]. But their passports are stamped with a max stay requirement (usually 6 months long).
          I understand some of the hijackers were on FBI watch-lists. So that in itself was a failure.

          CORRECTION: Saudis were given a VISA EXPRESS process. But they still needed a VISA to be allowed at our port-of-entries. That is what made it easy for the hijackers to get a VISA to the USA. Technically they overstayed their I-94 status (not their visas).

        2. Yes, they did. And the INS (as it was then called, as in, the Immigration and Naturalization Service) was so deeply incompetent, it actually sent a couple of “Dear Middle-Eastern Flight Students: You’ve overstayed your visa!” notices to a couple of the hijackers in Florida. Some two months after they’d blown themselves and a few thousand others to bits.

          1. Did the INS know these students were terrorists? You seem to make that connection. Don’t you think there are thousands, perhaps even hundreds of thousands or even millions, of visitors to the USA that overstay their visas? What’s the INS supposed to do? Find them and arrest them then deport them? Not all overstaying aliens are terrorists. In fact most of them “just like it here”, so they overstay.

          2. If you remember a few folks with the same names were investigated. We don’t even know if the hijackers used their real names. So the INS simply mails letters to inform I-94 status violators that they are overstays. I bet if you were the employee sending out those letters you would not know if the person on the I-94 is the same as the hijacker. They may have the same name but you are not sure they are the same person. So you mail the notice anyway because if it is not the same person then you have done your job.

          3. Please see the above comment. The letters were letters of approval for student visas (not overstay notifications), and they were sent to the students, via the flight school, six months after 9/11. You can keep defending the INS, or interpret that however you wish; in my book, that qualifies as staggering incompetence.

          4. CORRECTION: Forgive me, I had not remembered the exact nature of the letters, nor the precise amount of time that had passed since 9/11. In reality, the incompetence of the INS was even worse. The letters were actually letters of approval, sent to the Florida flight school, for student visas for two of the terrorists. Six months after 9/11:

            “MIAMI, Florida (CNN) — Six months to the day after Mohamed Atta and Marwan Al-Shehhi flew planes into the World Trade Center, the Immigration and Naturalization Service notified a Venice, Florida, flight school that the two men had been approved for student visas.”

            [Edited to add: The Senate Report for the DHS Appropriations Bill 2012, in requesting funding for improving immigration enforcement, points out that at least three of the 9/11 hijackers had overstayed their visas. I believe one of them was even pulled over by the police, for speeding, shortly before the attacks.]

          5. The point about the VISAs is why were they given one in the first place? Without VISAs these terrorists would not have come here. Once here, it is very difficult to find them. It is not the INS that gives out VISAs. It was the State Department. It was a full system FAIL. Not just INS.

          6. They applied for visas, normally and legally, at the US embassies or consulates in their native countries. None had criminal records. They had all obtained new passports from their native countries before applying for the visas, presumably to remove evidence of their visits to Afghanistan or other countries with significant Al Qaida presence. They all entered as tourists. It’s unclear how many of them had applied for student visas so as to legally stay here longer, but two definitely did–and were granted them, and notified six months after their deaths.

  5. I couldn’t agree more about the effectiveness of screening, but not on allowing weapons back on planes.

    The way we have been screening passengers is like looking for one specific needle in a stadium full of needles. What was put in place after 9/11 was theater, created to make the masses feel safe getting on an airplane again. The most significant improvements have come in hardening cockpit doors, training flight attendants, strengthening identification requirements, and the massive amount of data mining that is done to weed out the potential threats. People have decried PreCheck as pay to play and elitism, but what it, along with expediting flight crews and uniformed military, really does is drain the swamp.

    But, having said that, we have also seen over recent years that there are a lot of nut jobs out there. We have also seen a marked decrease in civility on airplanes, roads, shopping malls… If we can reduce the number of potential weapons on airplanes, it will reduce the number of weapons flight attendants and passengers will have to deal with when someone has too much to drink, goes off their meds or is just an a–hole and decides that it would be a good idea to pick a fight with their seatmate somewhere over the North Atlantic.

    1. The problem with screening for tiny knives is that it significantly reduces the already remote possibility of TSA finding a bomb.

      1. This.

        TSA’s objective is to stop terrorism, ie, the threat of somebody taking down a plane, whether it be by hijacking (see: cockpit doors) or by blowing it up.

        Instead, TSA has spent the last 10+ years looking for anything and everything, particularly things that will not accomplish either of the above.

        Those resources should have been spent looking for real threats.

    2. The reason we have lost civility on planes is because people are sick and tired of being treated like criminals by buffoons. By the time you even get to the plane you’re so frazzled and worked up I would frankly question the sanity of someone who didn’t blow their fuse.

      1. Exactly… here in Europe, travelling through security has not changed one iota, except for the 3-1-1 rule. Metal detectors, wand if it bleeps (underwire bras tend to often be culprits, LOL), and that is it. And nothing has happened either. However, I have not – apart from flights from the UK unfortunately or with many British Passengers – heard anything regarding terribly rowdy passengers who might go nuts. I am not saying this cannot happen, be it is rather unlikely.

        However, I refuse to fly to the US, simply because leaving makes the end of my stay so horrible that it simply is not worth it. I liked vacationing there, but since one is being treated like dirt on leaving, why leave my hard earned money in the US in the first place. There are a lot of other countries in the world, where vacationing is a pleasure, from day one to the last day.

      2. I used to love to go to airports, even if just to drop off someone. They seemed like portals to adventure. Now, all I get is annoyed and bored due to the TSA, the stupid “security” recordings that play literally ad nauseum in the terminals, and having to arrive an extra hour or two in the hopes that I’ll get through security without being violated too much.

        I’ve been developing ways to deal with the situation in a manner that is positive for me, but I still remember a time when I didn’t have to mentally prepare to deal with jerks and annoyances and intrusive procedures to get on a plane.

    3. The TSA has never existed to stop someone from being a jerk on a plane. No security (theater or not) can prevent nor guarantee 100% safety for all passengers. Bad things happen. It sucks. Life goes on.

  6. And to think knives are a problem. Ha! I was given one in first class on my recent flight with my meal. A plane is NOT going to be hijacked again. Period. The passangers won’t allow it and the cockpit is secure. People may be injured and some killed but that is the same risk we take every day walking doen the street.
    One may be blown out of the sky and that is what needs to be screened for. Period!

  7. It wasn’t the box cutters that caused the damage, but it was the mentality of “Give the hijackers what they want and they won’t hurt anybody.” And up until the terrorists changed the script, it worked fine.

    Since 9/11, no Flight Crew, passenger cabin or whatever is going to “give the terrorist what they want.” It started with flight 93.

    The terrorists totally screwed themselves in the process. 6 guys with box cutters ain’t going to take over a cabin of 100 passengers. A half of dozen people with handguns are going to find themselves in a fight. A guy with a bomb is going to get bum rushed by a dozen people from all sides. Passengers will break windows, open doors, sacrifice themselves because they know they are going to die anyway, but they’ll die as heros.

    1. Been saying the exact same thing. I trust my fellow passengers far more than I trust an 8 Billion dollar government-run agency. And, look at how many people get “special” services and how many people actually work at airports. It would only take one bribe to get one “bomb” on a plane and the whole fallacy of safety would be blown up. Pardon the pun.

  8. Chris,

    This past Saturday (March 30), I flew on Alitalia flight 610 from Rome (FCO) to JFK airport in New York. At the Rome airport, they ONLY had X-Ray detectors (not the scanners that are currently used here in the States), AND you are allowed to carry liquids on your carry on greater than 3 ounces. My cousin had a large bottled water and went right through with no problem. They only asked us to remove our shoes prior to going through the metal detector.

    So my question is this. If the European airports are allowing travelers to bring liquids in their carry-on greater than 3 ounces, and if they no longer use the scanning machines like we do here in America, then why are we wasting our time with these long airport lines in the states? It’s ridiculous and total window dressing.

    1. I’m surprised. Your experience has indeed been true for me for flights within Europe, but whenever I’ve boarded a plane back to the U.S., the security always has ratcheted up to TSA levels. Maybe things are changing?

    2. In Japan there is a sign and notice in English that food, liquid and solid, is allowed for all domestic flights so please do not throw it.
      Fruit gels are a big thing in Japan and they are great to take on short flights.
      It is only USA and EU that seems to be so uptight about taking liquids, gels and cupcakes.

  9. Absolutely, as long as cockpit doors are locked and hardened and passengers and crew no longer cooperate with anyone raising a ruckus.

    But too many companies and their executives are in bed with DHS and Congress peddling their latest whizbang terror-fighting gadgets so this will not happen.

  10. As a United Airlines Flight Attendant, I feel that allowing the tools back on the aircraft that can intentionally hurt both passengers and crew is not a responsible thing to do. Yes, people will find ways and yes, there are cracks in the system. But purposefully allowing a person to bring what can easily be used as a weapon to end MY life is just wrong.
    Please support all flight attendants in sigining the petition AGAINST allowing the tools onboard commerical aircraft that can be used against both PASSENGERS and CREW to maim and kill:

    1. Trey, numerous everyday, permitted objects can be easily fashioned into lethal weapons. It’s been repeated so often elsewhere so I won’t enumerate a list here.

      When you go to eat in a restaurant are you worried that someone may stab you with their steak knife?

      If not, then your fear is misplaced. I hate to break it to you but it is not the government’s role to protect you against every which way in which your fellow man may harm you.

    2. No thank you. I will go after anyone threatening you with a knife, using a laptop battery for a weapon if I must, but I won’t sign your petition. Not that knives are so important to me, but having the TSA move in the direction of sanity is.

    3. I’ve been flying with a small screwdriver kit that I got at a Microsoft conference as well as a security cable to lock my computer which is basically a steel “rope”. I’ve never even had it questioned. They have metal cutlery in business class. Your arguments are moot and meaningless.
      We need to look at security another way.

    4. I can’t believe you received 8 down arrows.
      You fly because that is your job. Bringing knives onboard affect you more than the rest of us.
      Your concerns are justified.

    5. Sorry, Trey. You know pocketknives have always been on planes. As well as tons of other items that are or can be fashioned into a weapon. No one wants anyone else to get hurt on a plane, except for a very, very, very, very, very (you get the picture) few.

      You are more likely to encounter a weirdo, dangerous person, or someone with a weapon on a city street than on a plane.

      Do you accept those situations as part of life and not worry about them?

  11. Why do you keep posting the same article over and over? We get it. You want just metal detectors. You want old people, young people, frequent fliers, and servicemen to bypass said metal detectors. Why not just make that the masthead of this site?

    Just because nothing has happened since 9/11 doesn’t mean it won’t one day. If you go back to just metal detectors and make all of those exceptions, one day something will happen. These terrorists don’t care and are willing to die. What makes you think they won’t strap a bomb to an old lady, put one in a prosthetic leg or fill a baby’s diaper with explosives?

    1. Mike, so as you are waiting on the checkpoint line, a line that often has more unscreened passengers than on the plane you’ll be eventually boarding, a line that is made unnecessarily long by TSA policies such as shoe removal and the body scanners and liquid restrictions, aren’t you worried that one of these terrorists might just blow up the checkpoint? I mean, they don’t care and are willing to die.

    2. >>”You want old people, young people, frequent fliers, and servicemen to bypass said metal detectors.”

      Oh, look who completely misses the point. The rest of your argument is therefore moot.

    3. Why do you keep reading articles that you don’t like? Is it because you fear your side of the argument is losing? Americans see what is happening at airports: petty thugs are pushing innocent people around, stealing their belongings and molesting their bodies without improving our security one bit, and we are going to put a stop to it.

    4. Your comment has been flagged by another user as inappropriate. I’m allowing it, even though it borders on a personal attack.

      Fact is, I write about the TSA once a week, and until the TSA gets fixed, I’ll keep writing about it. I think the other commenters have already answered your second question.

      Please familiarize yourself with our comments policy: http://elliott.org/comments/

      Thank you.

    5. You’re more likely to die in a car crash on the way to the airport.

      Just because you haven’t yet doesn’t mean it won’t one day, right?

  12. Disclaimer: Retired airline pilot

    There have been some excellent postings on this thread. There have been some meaningful things done post-9/11, including changes to cockpit doors, and better in-flight procedural steps, but as a whole, we generally refer to the TSA screening as “The Greatest Show on Earth.” All the billions of dollars being spent now are mostly misdirected. IMHO, the funding should be spent as follows:

    1. Better determination of WHO gets on an airplane, as opposed to what they’re carrying.
    2. Train and use undercover agents at airports to profile passengers and identify unusual or suspicious activity.
    3. Devote more effort to the ramp and cargo areas to screen and identify what goes into the aircraft. Inflight explosives are far more a threat post-9/11 than hijacking.

    I’m sure others can think of other more cost effective measures. One cannot 100% prevent a future tragedy. But the way we’re spending our resources now is mostly a waste. We can do better

  13. It never should have gotten as bad as it did. And as long as it is the terrorists have won. They made America afraid.

    1. That would be a whole lot of things, up to and including your own body. Really? You think that’s the best way to go?

  14. Again I will say again. It is not what is getting on the
    airplane, it is who is getting on the airplane that is important.

    One silly thing I see is the attendant placing a drink cart
    to block the aisle as the captain opens the flight deck door to use the
    restroom. Any potential hijacker will
    know when the door is open even if it is only a short time.

    A simple curtain would suffice so that no one knows when the
    flight deck door is actually opened.

  15. I can think of a few minor changes to pre-9/11 screenings that I could buy into:

    * Restricting the screening process to passengers only was probably a good idea.

    * Some (less draconian) limitations on liquids could be justified.

    * Airlines awarding screening contracts to private companies that competed primarily on price and had no consistent training or hiring standards — as was the case before 9/11 — was probably a bad idea.

    Other than these few relatively minor changes, I’m not aware of any other good reasons why we shouldn’t return to pre 9/11 screening techniques.

  16. I fly continually for business and occasionally for pleasure, and frankly, since the advent of whole-body scanners, I’ve found the process inoffensive and quick. I might go for PreCheck, though.

    I’m more concerned that careless TSA checkers are letting stuff through, that gate agents allow obese people board for seats they can’t fit, and screaming/misbehaving children board at all. You know how hotels tell you that if you smoke in a room, your credit card will be dinged for $200? I bet if they did the same for children, and put the same kind of girth-checkers at gates as they have for carry-ons, flying could be happier again. Until there are no more terrorists in the world, scan away!

  17. I’m still confused by the “nail clippers/small scissors” thing. I thought the reason that nail clippers and sewing scissors were banned from flights is that they could be used to finish up an explosive device in flight. Now I hear they’re allowed on board again — is that right? How did the TSA come to that decision? Will they be admitting that they’ve been inconveniencing passengers for years for no reason?

  18. Well – I’ve been through it all now.

    Just recently I flew with my kid, and this was just odd. My kid was wearing overalls, which I’m not thinking weren’t necessarily the best choice because the metal buttons and clips set off the metal detector; however, it was a little bit too late at that point. That wasn’t really all that bad though, except that a couple of TSA screeners sort of argued about what to do next. One wanted to pat down my kid. I offered to remove the overalls to be X-rayed, and my kid could walk through the metal detector in diapers. In the end, my hands were swabbed, and apparently that was good enough. I’m trying to figure out what that accomplished.

    During that whole escapade, I did notice that someone did get stopped with a box of shaving razor blades. The passenger was told they couldn’t go in, and that the blade inside the razor also had to be removed. That actually made sense, while our little 10 minute time-wasting exercise didn’t/

    When I flew out, I was done when one of the “senior” TSA personnel was screaming that everything had to be shut down. It was only one line backed up, and there were two unused screening points that they could open up. Still – I wouldn’t want to be one of the over 100 people in line who had to wait an extra 5-10 minutes because they had to start up the equipment.

    This was actually a bit odd, because typically my experiences at airport security had been pretty good. I give high marks to the guys at Orange County Airport (SNA).

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