A former head of Transportation Security Administration says air travel is not safer with oppressive airport security checks and in-flight restrictions. He urges politicians to embrace risk and relax some of the restrictions.
Kip Hawley, a former head of the United States Transportation Security Administration, says airport security in America is broken in spite of the oppressive airport and in-flight security measures. In an article he wrote for the Wall Street Journal he blasted the airport security system for being hopelessly bureaucratic and disconnected from the people whom it is meant to protect. According to Hawley preventing terrorist attacks on air travel requires a constant reassessment of threats, flexibility and public support, which the current system has plainly failed to achieve. TSA's job is to manage risk, not to enforce regulations. He's critical of the management consultants that helped develop the current airport checkpoint system.
Hawley explains how the x-ray detection system works or, rather, not works as accurately as expected. He recommends an overhaul of the current security system, eliminating banned items, allowing all liquids and holding TSA officers accountable as well as giving them more flexibility and rewards. He believes a randomized security check would be more effective against threats than a predictable system.
In Canada airport security is handled by CATSA, the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority. The country follows the U.S. example and implements more or less all policies adopted in the U.S.
Hawley also lays some of the blame on the airline baggage fees that force passengers to increase their load of carry-on luggage, which has been a checkpoint nightmare. For the past decade airlines in Canada and the United States have been looking for "creative" ways to increase revenue such as dipping into agencies' trust accounts, hiding fuel surcharges as tax, and coming up with an array of unpublished ancillary charges. In 2008 British Airways was the first scheduled international carrier to announce that it would no longer honour the decades-old two pieces of free luggage allowance and start charging extra for the second piece. This policy was adopted by all carriers in the name of "competitiveness".
There has been a feud going on in the United States between airlines and consumer groups on non-disclosure of ancillary airline fees. In an article titled "Unnecessarily irritating customers" The Economist magazine says the airlines should stop treating their add-on fees as trade secrets.
Here's news for Hawley: some airlines have already started charging for carry-on luggage and it shouldn't take long before they all adopt a "good" practice for "competitiveness' sake", so he doesn't have to worry. Below is a humourous take on what air travel may look like in the not-too-distant future...