Monday, December 28, 2009

Stark naked passengers: the future of modern aviation

It won’t be long before all pre-boarding airline passengers will be required to undergo total body hair removal, comprehensive search of all cavities and orifices, and board their plane stark naked. No luggage whatsoever will be allowed. Instead, luggage will follow passengers on separate cargo flights.

During flights, the release of seat belts will be controlled centrally, and toilet bags will be sold by the aircrew to the confined passengers. This, together with the extra seats replacing the now-obsolete toilet cubicles will help airlines recoup some of the additional security cost.

If this may sound to you as overreaction, it really is nothing more than a simple extension of our current reactionary security measures. That is, when a terrorists’ attempt takes place, we implement new measures to reduce the possibility of reoccurrence of similar attempts. This is the reason we rely so heavily on metal detectors (which do not detect plastic explosives), need to remove shoes (what about wigs?), or are prevented from bringing liquids on board. But not only can’t this approach prevent new original plots, soon will we reach the limit of restrictions we can impose on passengers. For example, as modern explosives can be molded in any shape or form, it’s not unthinkable that they may even be worn as undergarment. What will we do after the first terrorist blows up his underwear?

Although it has been nearly eight years since 9/11, it wasn’t the improved security alertness or the tight security measures that prevented this week’s attack from becoming a full scale disaster. It was a lucky malfunction of the bomb combined with a spontaneous heroic act of one of the passengers that saved the lives of the Northwest airline passengers.

But again, following this latest attempt, additional ineffective measures and restrictions are being implemented. From now on we’ll not be allowed to leave our seats 60 minutes before lending – as if terrorist acts cannot take place earlier. And even though security expert claims that a shoe bomb is big enough to blow a hole in an airplane, from now on we’ll not be able to carry more than a single bag on board.

The only real chance we have to prevent airplane terrorism is to improve intelligence. Intelligence was acknowledged as a major failure that led to 9/11. Intelligence, again, failed to prevent this recent attempt. After all, the bomber’s father, who is a prominent banking official in Nigeria, went to the U.S. embassy in Nigeria, to discuss his concerns about his son, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. But that didn’t trigger any additional checks or investigation when his son boarded the plane.

It seems that, once again, kneejerk measures have won over substance. But what can we expect? After all, if 9/11 wasn’t enough to make the required change, can we really expect a failed terrorist attempt to do the job?


Michel said...

As always, your pet peave but validly so, my friend. I recall our Asian trips on which we ridiculed security measures that seemed profuse to the extreme without the intended goal of 'security' ever being reached. My view of the opposing forces of action and reaction is like yours; reaction is the father of failure.

Waddle on and share your observations.

Anonymous said...

it's funny you mentioned this. I actually saw an exhibit at MOMA 3 years ago where this artist drew a penciled naked, skeleton-like man with a brief case with the captions "The Perfect Flight Passenger" above him.