Friday, May 09, 2008

The View From Terminal A

Just got back in town yesterday at 5:30PM and a few minutes later I walked through the new Terminal A at Boston’s Logan airport. I had to record these 2 pictures for posterity. They show just one tiny bit of the cost we pay each day for our government’s self-righteous obsession with the strange participatory ritual we now call airport security.

I was struck by the stark contrast between how the airlines and the TSA manage their queues. Note the complete lack of queue at the airline check-in counter (left), and the usual long queue at the TSA checkpoint (right).

There were no innovations like touch-screen check-in kiosks on 9/11. In the 6+ years since then, most airlines have streamlined their own check-in processes so that they are faster and easier, not to mention more secure – even for we cattle who must fly in coach.

During the same 6 years the government, through the TSA, has done very little innovation. Though a high percentage of travelers are frequent (meaning weekly) flyers, the TSA security policies do not discriminate differentiate among any classes of passengers. All are subjected to the same process, day after day. The unimaginative uniformity of the TSA’s policies continue to severely damage the airline’s business-critical customer experience, all the while the TSA goes on charging the airline’s customers a fee for its work, and thus contributing even further to the woes of the airline industry.

Many Democrats seem sure the government would do a much better job than this of managing all our health care policies. I’m sure it would be fairer in the same idiotic sense that TSA security policies are fair – meaning uniformly inconvenient and thus questionably effective.

This lunacy of TSA policy reminded me of Peggy Noonan’s remarks last week in The View From Gate 14:

America is in line at the airport. America has its shoes off, is carrying a rubberized bin, is going through a magnetometer. America is worried there is fungus on the floor after a million stockinged feet have walked on it. But America knows not to ask. America is guilty until proved innocent, and no one wants to draw undue attention. America left its ticket and passport in the jacket in the bin in the X-ray machine, and is admonished. America is embarrassed to have put one one-ounce moisturizer too many in the see-through bag. America is irritated that the TSA agent removed its mascara, opened it, put it to her nose, and smelled it. Why don't you put it up your nose and see if it explodes? America thinks.

And, as always: Why do we do this when you know I am not a terrorist, and you know I know you know I am not a terrorist? Why this costly and harassing kabuki when we both know the facts, and would agree that all this harassment is the government's way of showing "fairness," of showing that it will equally humiliate anyone in order to show its high-mindedness and sense of justice? Our politicians congratulate themselves on this as we stand in line.

All the frisking, beeping and patting down is demoralizing to our society. It breeds resentment, encourages a sense that the normal are not in control, that common sense is yesterday...


flymorgue2 said...

Noonan spent the second half of that article blaming the situation on Bush! What they hell has happened to her lately? Powerline had a good deconstruction of that column, confirming why I just don't read her anymore.

Gary said...

It appears she's gone over the edge.
That aside, the Bush administration does share some of the blame.

The TSA can and should do a better job screening passengers. By better, I mean more efficient and less annoying. I almost missed a flight last year because the screener running the Xray machine was a trainee and kept doing the procedure wrong. The person supervising her let her continue to try to get my bag through as the line backed up behind me. Then they decided that my laptop, which wasn't even in the bag, was the problem. So that got set aside for a chemical swipe. A very leisurely one why the screener tried to figure out how to run the equipment.

We now have a more expensive system that is still hideously inefficient in place of the privately run system we had before 9/11.

But of course we can't do any pre screening of frequent fliers, profiling of travelers to find the ones that do pose a risk, or anything else that might give the appearance of either favoritism or discrimination.

We'll lose this war because we're so afraid of offending our enemies.

Ibrahimblogs said...

The pictures are eye openers to some extent. But we need to think clearly before blaming anyone.

Keep posting!!

This is Ibrahim from Israeli Uncensored News