American airport hysteria

I love this article from Patrick Smith at It’s on the subject of American hysteria when it comes to airport security, and it references all of the overblown and recent responses of the TSA and other individuals charged with security at American airports. Since when have we become such a nation of frightened ninnies?

“This country needs to get a grip. We need a slap in the face, a splash of cold water.”

“What caused the delays and what hassled so many travelers was not the defendant’s actions, but our mindless and hysterical response to them.”

“Here in this proclaimed new “age of terrorism,” we act as if the clock began ticking on Sept. 11, 2001. In truth we’ve been dealing with this stuff for decades. Not only in the 1980s, but throughout the ’60s and ’70s as well. Acts of piracy and sabotage are far fewer today.”

“Imagine the Karachi attack happening tomorrow. Imagine TWA 847 happening tomorrow. Imagine six successful terror attacks against commercial aviation in a five-year span. The airline industry would be paralyzed, the populace frozen in abject fear. It would be a catastrophe of epic proportion — of wall-to-wall coverage and, dare I suggest, the summary surrender of important civil liberties.”

“What is it about us, as a nation, that has made us so unable to remember, and unable to cope?”

Patrick isn’t the only one upset about this. I wrote about our overblown airport security rules in the past — see this article, and this one, and this as well.

All I can say is that hope can be glimpsed across the pond, in Europe. Having flown through multiple European airports this past year, I can tell you things appear more rational there. Even when there are extra security checks, the tone is calm, the demeanor is calm, and you’re not eyed with suspicious eyes, like you are here in the US, where everything is seen as a threat.


Obama wants to increase airport security tax

Waiting to check in

We’re currently getting charged $2.50 per passenger to go through the security theater* at our airports. Now the Obama administration wants to increase this fee. Quoting from this article at the Economist:

“The Homeland Security portion of Obama’s proposed 2010 budget (PDF) includes a plan to raise the fees by an as-yet-undisclosed amount in 2012. The increase, the White House says, is needed because the current fee only funds about 36% of airport security costs.”

So let me get this straight: not only do we have to go through the inane, annoying and useless experience of getting scanned, uber-prodded and turned over every time we want to board a plane, but now we’ll have to pay more for that unsavory experience as well? Thanks a lot, Mr. Obama. I can see my vote went to a good cause.

As I said before, I think we should be doing away with the whole darned thing. What happened to accepting the risk and moving on? That’s how the United States was founded and built. It wasn’t built by wimps who wanted to make sure no letter openers or nail clippers got on the plane with them. Why zap us with X-rays, make us take off our shoes, put us through air blowers to sniff us (I’ve half a mind to fart when I go through those things just to see what happens), open up our luggage, and generally speaking stink up the whole flying experience when we don’t really need any of it?

It’s shocking to hear that, isn’t it? Truth of the matter is we wouldn’t really need any of it if security were done right, and if people had the courage to step up and disarm the terrorists when and if they dared do something on a plane. Since the general populace is a bunch of pansies who’d rather have big-brother government do everything for them, now we have to put up with cretinous security checks and starting next year, with increased fees for said security checks. Hooray for democracy, where the majority rules with a pudgy, slightly damp and sweaty fist, tired from holding the remote control too long.

* Term coined by Bruce Schneier.


New Year's Day at Amsterdam Airport

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines

We flew with KLM from IAD (Washington-Dulles airport in the US) to OTP (Otopeni-Bucharest airport in Romania) during this past New Year’s Eve and Day. I highly recommend KLM, we’ve had the best flying experience with them of all the airlines we’ve used so far.

Foggy day at Amsterdam Airport

I should warn you that Delta handles the ticketing and check-in for KLM at American airports — this means rude and borderline-incompetent service. At least that was our experience at Dulles Airport in DC. KLM can’t help it I suppose. At least once you step onto their planes, it’s a different world altogether. It’s clean, well-lit, well-ventilated, they’re friendly, accommodating, their in-flight video service is amazing, and their food is great.

How is KLM different from other airlines? Well, they’re not evil, like United Airlines, and they’re not clueless, like Alitalia, and they’re not mean, like Spirit.

We picked New Year’s for our flight out of Washington because we thought most people would stay at home. We were wrong. The flight to Amsterdam was fully booked. Who flies on New Years Eve anyway?! Apparently, young people, Muslims and Indians. I understand the latter two groups, because they don’t celebrate New Year’s on the same day as the Western world, but since when have young folks decided to give up partying on New Year’s Eve?

It was a foggy, somewhat snowy New Year’s morning when we arrived in Amsterdam. You couldn’t see a thing on the runway as the plane landed. Thank goodness the pilots knew what they were doing. By the time we cleared through customs and security, the fog cleared a bit as well, or at least as much as the photos show.

Our plane getting loaded for departure

The flight from Amsterdam to Bucharest was empty, which figures. Most Romanians stay home on New Year’s. They prefer to have their traditional parties, then start the new year with some time off. I think there were at most 12 people on the entire plane. I felt bad for KLM, having to fly that big jet with so few people on board, but I suppose things average out in the long run.

Oh, and yes, KLM did wish us a Happy New Year while we were over the Atlantic Ocean, and gave us a choice of champagne or orange juice to toast in the new year. Quite nice of them!

Why don’t I have any photos from the Bucharest airport? Because photography still isn’t allowed there, which is dumb, but then that’s par for the course in Romania.