(BLACK PR WIRER) (September 8, 2009) I am somewhat of a frequent flyer. In a nation as vast and spread out as ours, it is to be expected that one will have to fly to get from coast to coast on occasion. There used to be a certain unassuming glamour to flying. When I was a little girl, dropping my father off at the airport for his yearly conventions in other cities was a fun activity that did not involve hours spent at the metal detector and haggling with security. You could even escort loved ones to their departure gates!
Now, as an adult, every time I fly the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ostensibly decides to impose a new restriction. Sometimes they enforce their rules, other times they don’t. For the past year, for instance, we’ve all been required to put any and all liquids, gels, glosses etc. in a quart sized zip lock bag. This stems from a foiled terrorist plot to blow up planes departing Heathrow airport using liquid explosives last year. Excellent detective work done by the British prevented this terrorist attack on a transatlantic flight from occurring. It is unlikely that screening personnel would’ve picked this up if the terrorists hadn’t been apprehended ahead of flight time.
The FAA has decided that one plastic zip lock bag can save the world from the old lady in front of me and her Dior lipstick or hand sanitizer. I must now beg the question, if I am brilliant enough to use my lip gloss and hand lotion to create an explosive device, how is a plastic bag going to prevent me from doing so? Furthermore, why is our government reactionary instead of proactive about our safety? I.e. why does something tragic have to happen before anything is done to keep us “safe”? With African Americans and the nation at large flying more than ever for work and pleasure these growing safety concerns are just that; concerns!
I’m not saying that we need less security. I would argue that we need more. However, paying the highly under qualified FAA employees in charge of our safety minimum wage to “keep us safe” through arduous screening and unnecessary restrictions isn’t doing anyone any favors. I, personally, am tired of that panicky moment experienced before the metal detector. Is my Chapstick considered a liquid or a solid? Is my hand sanitizer under two ounces? Flying commercial airlines has made us all feel like refugees at one point or another, herded from place to place, unsure of our rights, what we’re allowed to have in our possession, when we might receive our next meal, all of us treated like criminals. Whatever happened to flying the friendly skies?
Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport is one of the most advanced in the world. Frequent flyers are able to return home to the Netherlands and check themselves through security with the swipe of a card and a retinal scan. Yes, you read correctly. I have actually witnessed middle-aged Dutch citizens putting their eye up to the futuristic machine beside me and gaining entry back home while I waited in line to have my little blue passport stamped by a uniformed man sitting in the equivalent of a large box.
So what’s the answer to this most serious line of inquiry? I don’t have one miracle answer to fix the entire situation. I do, however, think that the men and women working in attempt to screen out those with bad intentions should receive the appropriate training AND the appropriate pay! I also think that there’s probably something to be learned from Israeli policy and their lack of troubles since the 1970’s. Don’t want your things searched? Then find an alternate means of travel. And could you stop frisking grandma and the 1 year-old in the diaper please? Unless of course grandma looks really dangerous…