The latest critic of TSA — BA’s CEO

by Janice Hough on October 29, 2010


Long before Al Qaeda even existed, Great Britain had become unfortunately all too familiar with modern terrorism. Besides the IRA’s regular attacks, there was the horrible Lockerbie Pan Am bombing, so it’s not as if the country is naive about the potential dangers. Their airline is giving TSA low marks.

In fact, many years ago, London Heathrow security was far tougher than anything in the U.S. (I had to once leave some Christmas Crackers at the airport, because the small “cracker snap,” that makes them pop was on the list of forbidden items in checked luggage at the time.)

Now, however, British security can be a breeze compared to the U.S. version, although they follow many of the American rules. (Liquids are restricted and except for boots, passengers can keep their shoes on.)

But in a speech to the UK Airport Operators Association, even the chairman of British Airways, Martin Broughton, says he thinks the U.S. is going too far with security.

He said that many U.S. security rules are unnecessary, and that British authorities should not “kowtow to the Americans every time they want something done. America does not do internally a lot of the things they demand that we do. We shouldn’t stand for that. We should say we’ll only do things which we consider to be essential and that you Americans also consider essential.”

As one of many Americans frustrated by TSA, I think he has a point. I understand that safety is critical, but in my personal opinion, there are too many “let’s be real” moments these days.

Wearing high boots, sure, security might want to make sure there’s nothing hidden inside. Wearing flip-flops? Where could you hide anything?

Ditto, a single sealed bottle of wine or champagne? I suppose a very sophisticated operation could bottle something dangerous and make it look like wine, but the same effect could be accomplished with several little three ounce bottles.

And, it’s hardly a consistent system. Some TSA officials want things like nail polish and lip gloss placed in that little plastic bag and counted as part of your “allotment,” others do not.

Plus, as gadget hounds have discovered, there’s no consistent definition of “what is a laptop?” As Broughton noted, “Take the iPad. They still haven’t decided if it is a laptop or it isn’t a laptop. Some [TSA officers] think you should take it out and some think you shouldn’t.”

This isn’t even getting into the whole enhanced pat-down issue.

So what do you think, Consumer Traveler readers? All of us want to fly safely. But do the U.S. rules make you feel safer, or just more annoyed?

(Photo: airtreks)

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  • Matthew in NYC

    As an international traveler and recent US immigrant, I am astounded at what the US makes other countries do, but is not done here. For example, to mail a package from Australia to the US, Australia Post requires the sender to produce government issue photo ID (preferably issued by an Australian government), but when mailing a package from the US to Australia, no ID is required. If the US government is going to impose these obligations on foreign governments, it should practise them at home.

  • Joel Wechsler

    My clients are more annoyed than ever, as am I, based on a recent trip. One of the worst aspects of the TSA security theater is its inconsistency. No two airports seem to be alike in their application of the “rules.”

  • Frank

    Wearing high boots, sure, security might want to make sure there’s nothing hidden inside. Wearing flip-flops? Where could you hide anything?
    And, it’s hardly a consistent system.
    ====================================================

    Wouldnt allowing flip flops and NOT boots make the system inconsistent? ALL SHOES OFF. That’s consistent. Hide something in a pair of flip flops? IN THESE, YOU CAN: http://www.mydivascloset.com/adfl.html

    I can just hear it now, the whining, “Butttttttt, these AREEE allowed, they’re flip flops”.

  • Jason

    What’s funny is that I fly out of BA’s terminal 7 at JFK all the time on domestic flights and I have to go through the same exact security as BA passengers.

    It’s the standard TSA security checkpoint (and by standard I mean the usual inconsistencies) and I don’t have to do anything different so I’m not sure what the issue is.

  • Ituri

    I’d be happy taking off my shoes and being magic-wanded with my ID if they’d stop MOLESTING me just because I don’t want a virtual body scan. I’ve gotten two PUNITIVE pat-downs, and its like we’re common criminal.

    Why do our rights disappear in airports? Seriously, how is it possible the TSA is able to do whatever it likes, regardless of our rights? NOBODY can assume we’re guilty of a crime, search our PERSONS physically, and deny us a paid-for service based on nothing more than their judgement of you (say, if you DO NOT want to go through the scanner and be molested in a pat down… you can say “no” if you’re prepared not to fly at all).

    The government cannot legally even infringe our free travel. Its law, people! They can’t stop our RIGHT to use personal vehicles, trains OR airplanes. “I’m afraid” is not a good excuse to do anything.

  • Janet

    Amen, Ituri. Just because I’m concerned about the long term effects of the radiation from the scans, I am treated like a criminal. It’s all eyewash. If a terrorist wants to bring something on a plane, there are plenty of loopholes for them – like a body cavity. For the rest of us, guilty until proven (?) innocent. How many times over the years have we been told something was safe and it turned out it wasn’t? As a recipient of CT scans that were later reported unsafe, why would we believe the TSA??

  • donj

    I’m sorry to see so few commentors have taken the time to read The Patriot Act. That pretty much took away most of your rights, folks. Remember what Sen. Russ Feingold said when asked why is was the only senator to vote NO? “Because I read it.” We get the government — and the treatment — we vote for.

  • donj

    Oops. That should read: :Feingold said when asked why HE was the…”

  • Ituri

    Donj, that would work great… except I *didn’t* vote for them OR it. I voted for the other guys *every* time, and I cringed when I read the Patriot Act content (the parts I could get, the legalese gets me…). So no, I haven’t gotten what I voted for, have I.

    Not that I don’t understand how the elective democratic republic works, but its a simple fact that our structure of election means MUCH of the US is rarely represented in process. The Constitutional rights we carry as citizens and individuals are suppose to be *beyond* adaptation… otherwise, its a little pointless to make it a static document thats nearly impossible to change.

  • Cliff Woodrick

    I was just hand patted down at MSP and told that they do not use wands any more if you set off the metal detector. I set it off because I have metal hip and two knees. I have been patted down before but never like this NEW procedure. We have two more trips where we fly but I am considering no more flights after that because I resent being “felt up” by the TSA. I will go for the full body scan any day but really hate this new procedure.

    Have a wonderful day – Cliff

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