Tightened Airline Security Guarantees Rise in Stress Levels

Get ready for this: random wanding of hitherto unexamined body parts; syringe searches; interminable landing-pattern hours spent with hands in full view and no foreign objects in your lap — including that good book you were about to finish. This is what Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab has brought us, but it’s not all his fault. It has simply, quietly, come to this.

In the wake of the terrorism attempt Friday on a Northwest Airlines flight, federal officials on Saturday imposed new restrictions on travelers that could lengthen lines at airports and limit the ability of international passengers to move about an airplane.

The government was vague about the steps it was taking, saying that it wanted the security experience to be “unpredictable” and that passengers would not find the same measures at every airport — a prospect that may upset airlines and travelers alike.

But several airlines released detailed information about the restrictions, saying that passengers on international flights coming to the United States will apparently have to remain in their seats for the last hour of a flight without any personal items on their laps. It was not clear how often the rule would affect domestic flights.

Airline travel has traveled a long route from the days of white-gloved passengers (remember legroom?) and spiffy stewardesses asking if you’d like coffee, tea or milk. Most of us can recall the unlamented lunches and snacks on trays — although the salad dressing was spicy and the ice cream was good. Almost everyone can remember getting on a plane without first removing your shoes. And although we now stock 3-ounce containers of everything cosmetic and medicinal under the sun, everyone can recall, with a little effort, the day when you could bring a bottle of water from home in your purse.

All of the changes have now become routine, and hardly worth a grumble. Routine is reassuring. New ones will slide into the mix eventually. But it’s that “unpredictable” business that distresses more than a few of us.

The homeland security secretary, Janet Napolitano, said in a statement Saturday that new measures were ‘designed to be unpredictable, so passengers should not expect to see the same thing everywhere.’ She said passengers should proceed with their holiday plans and ‘as always, be observant and aware of their surroundings and report any suspicious behavior or activity to law enforcement officials.’

Here we are, with the back-zip boots, the 3-ounce plastic containers, the 10-minute book and the anticipation of no bathroom privileges on 90-minute flights, and we’re supposed to remain observant while expecting not to know what to expect?

Thanks a lot, Umar.

New Restrictions Quickly Added for Air Passengers – NYTimes.com.


  1. I think the new restrictions are a complete waste of everyone’s time. Especially seeing how they have policies in place, that when followed would work. His name was on a list because HIS own family reported him!

    Instead of placing these completely bogus restrictions on everyone, why not fire the f-ing employee(s) at the airport that let him board.

    It seems to me that whenever there is a terriost attack, whether it be 911 or the latest balls fire fiasco, America waits until it has happened to react.
    Doesn’t it make more sense to follow the intelligence (ie fbi or cia reports about terriorists planning to fly planes into buildings)they have on hand before something major happens than to sit on it or just let them on the plane all willy nilly? I know it isn’t that cut and dry but COME ON, there needs to be more use of common sense being used by the people who are supposed to protect us.
    But I guess if that was the case it would be harder for them to use fear to control us. (I’m really not a conspiracy theorist, I just have no faith in my govt.)

    1. Yes, his family did report him, and what a decision that had to be! (I was mulling that over in a post today.) Hopefully this will lead to closer attention to those lists of potential bad eggs. I have a lot of issues with our government, but think I’d still choose what we have over what much of the rest of the world has, so I’m hanging in, jdcats.

  2. Well, the anti-Muslim post above is so over-the-top as to be a perfect example of the kind of unintelligent over-reaction this incident can incite in people. I personally share your hope that we can someday be in a position where we don’t have to worry; but in the mean time, we are in a position where people are making a dedicated and focused effort at killing people. An organized response in the interests of safety is mandated. I think this inability to move around for an hour business will evaporate shortly because it just isn’t scalable.

    1. I think you’re right that the restrictions on moving around, or having a book in your lap, etc will settle into something reasonable. It’s still a little sad to note the overreactions on both sides, and I yearn for the day when peaceful coexistence — and maybe a little trust, both in governments & in one’s fellow man — might return.

  3. As someone who flies about 40 times/year, I have mixed feelings about the latest news. On the one hand, I will probably be inconvenienced by the unpredictable new regulations more in my day-to-day life than most people will; on the other hand, it just flat-out is not hard to prepare yourself to be able to endure the gauntlet that you must navigate to travel by air these days.

    To that end, I think calling the government’s reaction “knee jerk” is a little misguided. After all, this is a flight that had no government presence aboard, and the people on the flight are still with us because they were successful in taking action against a terrorist who did not fight back and had a malfunctioning device.

    Much of what is known about terrorist efforts against air travel involves them making test runs, and unpredictability is a great way to make that harder for them. While it is true that we take our chances crossing the street or doing anything else, I don’t see how any reasonable person could expect the government not to act to counter threats. In the short term, keeping things unpredictable won’t affect the average traveler very much. The thing about not being able to use the bathroom for the last hour of the flight is a bit excessive, but only by about 15-20 minutes; most flights have not allowed you to use the bathroom for the final 30-ish minute landing approach anyway.

    1. Acting to counter threats is a good thing Michael, a goal I agree with – possibly you could explain how making me put my book away or forcing some poor parent to try and explain to their kids why they can’t play with their toys for the next hour meets that goal?

    2. Thanks for a thoughtful response, Michael. I am not recommending that the government turn its back on travel safety — although I AM recommending that we not categorize all Muslims as terrorists, which is suggested above. Muslims are people of all sorts, most of them peace-loving. I just think we can overreact, demand immediate action whatever it is, and institute unnecessary policies such as those that had security people throwing out lipsticks and prescription meds willy-nilly for a while. I also think we can be alert — & blessings on those heroic fellow passengers who have helped prevent tragedies — without every other passenger being suspect. Intervention by our intelligence people (and bless them, too) before prospective terrorists get to the airport is probably the best security we have. This is my Pollyanna gene, but I also hold out the hope that we can keep trying to win hearts and thus reduce the supply of potential recruits to terrorism. The time is not now in view, but it would be nice to think a day might come when we could let our guard down a little.

  4. You’re not blaming Umar, but the people who have to try to protect the rest of us from the Umars? It must be a thoroughly thankless job, worrying about what some Mohammed-inspired whackonut might want to do with 100 grams of PETN nestled against his balls, while get ragged at by folks with no such worries.

    I say, DO blame the Umars. They are the flies ordered by the Lord of the Flies.

    So I can’t get up to use the bathroom on an airplane now thanks to some Nigerian? I already sent them $10,000 and they never sent the $6 million they promised!

    Perhaps the best solution is to require all Muslims entering the USA to be placed in coffins in the cargo bay for the duration of the flight. Perhaps they should not be allowed to get up and move about the cabin, at all.

  5. I think you’d be more accurate if you said “thanks a lot US Government” – it’s their knee jerk reaction that has brought US air travel to this point.

    The ridiculous new regulations can only have one result, air travel to America will fall; why would anyone in their right mind who had a choice choose put themselves, and their family, through that sort of aggravation?

    1. You’re right, stageleft. Umar was just the latest tap to make the knee jerk, and I’m really not blaming him. We take our chances crossing the street; I’d way rather take more airline chances with less hassle and fewer nutty restrictions.

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