Knee-jerk reactions or just plain jerks

Of course the TSA decides to change the rules on me when I’m thousands of miles from home.  Just like last time.  I was quite happily enjoying my honeymoon, diving off the coast of Palau in August 2006 when the liquids ban went into effect.  It was a mess, to be certain, but we survived.  That “temporary” measure has had legs so news of this new “temporary” set of rules so soon on its heels was certainly worrisome.  And all that much more confusing since there are tons of rumors floating around, very few hard facts and I’m quite far from home with a slew of flights coming up in the next week.

The lack of solid information is probably the worst part.  The TSA managed to come up with a set of rules that can be defied by any 4 year old who has learned to read a wrist watch or look out the window to see when the land shows up again.  Or, you know, listens to the flight attendants make the announcement that there is only one hour of flight left so no getting out of your seat.  Yeah, that is really hard to counteract.  And not only have they come up with these ridiculous rules, they seem to be changing their mind with great frequency.

There have been reports of no carry-on bags of any sort (WestJet flights from Canada), no laptops at all throughout the flight (likely just overzealous flight attendants) and just no in-flight entertainment systems if there is live TV or maps for flights headed to the United States.  Glad that is so clear.  Like mud.

Then, around 10 EST on the 28th, more than 48 hours before the TSA Security Directive was set to expire jetBlue reported in their twitter feed that “We’re pleased to say that our LiveTV service has resumed on JetBlue flights. Happy Channel Surfing!”  Sounds like having live television and maps in flight is no longer banned.

I know that the TSA like the idea of keeping the public guessing but at some point you really have to tell folks what to expect so they know what they are getting themselves into when they travel.  Changing the rules every 30 minutes doesn’t actually create a secure environment.  Having reasonable rules does. 

So when a guy’s father rats him out to the FBI as being a loose cannon with homicidal tendencies and extremist views, maybe he shouldn’t be getting on airplanes.  Or at least he should be subject to additional screening.  Instead the watch list has my neighbor’s wife on it.  I’m pretty certain she’s not going to cause any trouble.

Using the Whole Body Imaging (WBI) machines on everyone isn’t the answer.  There is no need to subject every passenger to a strip search simply to get on the plane.  Systems exist today to detect traces of explosive residue.  They are used all over the world, including at every TSA checkpoint.  Remember that the goal is to find unstable people with weapons.  There are plenty of ways to do that without exposing every passenger, either to undue risk or to the screeners.

But the TSA definitely needs to get its act together.  They look like a bunch of amateurs running around here “reacting” to the new situation at hand.  Yes, there should be a reaction, but not a knee-jerk one.  If you have to change it so quickly because you realize what idiots you look like odd are you did something wrong to begin with.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

One Comment

  1. I’m so glad I’m not having to fly right now. No carry-on? Nothing in your lap for the last hour of the flight? It’s all about me, and for someone like me who really hates circling/landings, having a book is the only thing that keeps me mildly calm.

    And why no live seat-back TV? I haven’t yet seen anyone explain that change.

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