Home > Uncategorized > Airline security is the last refuge of the scoundrel

Airline security is the last refuge of the scoundrel

I love aviation. Genuinely, I really enjoy flying in a plane… well, the first eight hours, after that I get a bit bored. If Boeing and Rolls-Royce hadn’t made the 747-400, then I’d be happier (BA’s flagship flight in 1984 was London-Bombay-Madras-Singapore-Perth-Sydney. That strikes me as far more fun than London-Singapore-Sydney, especially if you stop off for 24 hours till the next flight everywhere en route…).

One of the many things that I love about aviation is how exceptionally safe it is. Not just safe from accidental death or injury, although it is, but also safe from crime of all kinds.

…and this is why, as someone who is obliged to fly an awful lot, I hate the scaremongers, bureaucrats and right-w(h)ingers who’ve turned it from a jolly and harmless experience into an exercise in annoyance and humiliation.

From a comment I’ve just made elsewhere, aimed at a worthless idiot [*]:

When I go to an airport, my first experience is with the jolly character on bag-drop, who’s employed by the company I’ve paid for my flight, who treats me with respect and who I repect. My third experience is in the lounge, where I get treated with respect and where I respect the staff.

However, the second experience, and the one which makes aviation-in-general vile, is with a bunch of utter twats employed by BAA/some goverment twattery to pretend that plane-terrorism is relevant, who don’t give a monkey’s about the people paying their wages, because they’re under some kind of insane delusion that their job involves something other than being nice to the people who you deal with.

And it’s made significantly more distressing by the fact that – because you and your lot have no power or chance of success in real life – we actually have to defer to you and treat you like gods in aeroplane life. “Oh, my airline security hero. I can’t believe I committed the heinous sin of smuggling 125ml of aftershave through your holy checkpoint. If I effuse myself at your feet will you please not send me to the back of the queue?”. So even though we know the whole rigmarole is completely useless – and either so do you, or you’re sufficiently idiotic to be subject for remedial treatment – we still have to pretend that you deserve respect.

(I’m struggling to think of people who demand, literally at gunpoint, respect from those who they’re subjugating solely using their power. Muggers and rapists are the only ones I can think of; perhaps our readers are more imaginative?)

Bonus points to the first idiot to lie that terrorism is a serious concern, rather than something made up to annoy us [**].

[*] yes, like a boncentration bamp buard, he was just doing his shitty, worthless job.

[**] a good friend of mine found himself in Boston Airport in 2002. There was a sign up saying “it is illegal to mock the security arrangements in this airport”. If you actually feel you have to to make mockery illegal, then you’re the loser and I’m on the other guy’s side. See also “Tango and contact lens solution can make a bomb“. Yes, the chaps who tried to make a bomb of Tango and Alcon are bad, but no different from a witch-doctor trying to make me die with curses and evil eyes…

  1. November 28, 2009 at 10:02 pm | #1

    Well, two out of three ain't bad I suppose. I usually manage the full house, myself, although I know others who encounter similar difficulties as yourself. The problem seems to arise when people are confused about how the chronology of this "mutual respect" thing works. As, according to this post, are you.

  2. November 28, 2009 at 10:31 pm | #2

    I have literally no idea what you're trying to say. "I should respect jumped-up bullying idiots doing a pointless job, because then they'll respect me?"

    FWIW, I'm never actually rude to aviation security people, much as they deserve it – it's not worth missing one's flight for the sake of standing up to one. But I hate the experience of having to defer and kowtow to them (or indeed to anyone – but if I'm going to have to defer and kowtow to someone, I'd rather it was someone who'd actually done something worth respecting).

  3. November 29, 2009 at 9:02 pm | #3

    I’d have thought it was blindingly obvious what I was trying to say; it is that, broadly, we reap what we sow in customer services. I was puzzled by your post, and tried to understand how it is that I’ve never had a problem with airport security, and yet you seem to have nothing but trouble. Obviously I don’t mean that you’re meant to respect bullies, but it probably helps if you don’t disrespect people on the basis of their occupation in the first place, as you seem to do. There are many ways to fail the “attitude test” that fall short of outright rudeness – considering people to be "worthless", "security gimps" with "no chance of success in real life" usually counts – and doing so more or less ensures a shitty attitude in return.

    So it’s good to know that you’re "never actually rude" to airport security staff in person, and that you reserve your rudeness for when you speak to them via internet forums. But since you’ve now retracted those comments, I’ll leave it at that.

  4. November 30, 2009 at 12:15 am | #4

    I genuinely can't understand the concept that you're "never had a problem" with airport security. You mean, you've never had to wait an hour in a pointless queue? You've never had to throw away your nail scissors? You've never been on a short trip to Europe and had to not buy a bottle of the local booze as a present because you weren't allowed it in hand luggage? You've never had to pay three quid for a bottle of water airside? Have you actually been on a plane ever?

  5. November 30, 2009 at 1:27 am | #5

    I'm not a regular flyer, though I flew last week and encountered an utterly joyless notice that Christmas crackers were considered explosives and hence banned. From this experience and others, I'm tending towards the opinion that the reason why free-market authoritarians love air travel so much (this covers runway-building-loving Labour ministers as well as Tories who cheer on police beating up global warming protesters) is not because they love flying, but they love airports. They embody a sanitised and apparently well-ordered regime where inflexibility rules and people are cajoled, belittled and harrassed for the pettiest of misdemeanours, the reasoning fo doing so based on the ruling class's fear and cognitive biases than any real evidence. Also, you can turn a tidy profit from a captive market by charging £3 for a bottle of guaranteed non-terrorist water. If they had it their way, all of society would be ordered and run like our airports.

  6. November 30, 2009 at 6:28 am | #6

    Wow, you’re hard work, but congratulations of a sort are due, for missing the point in just about the most clueless way possible. Here’s my response anyway, in more detail than you deserve.

    In “the good old days” before 9/11, I often did a little shuffle between my hand luggage and my hold luggage to ensure that aerosols, scissors and firearms were in the correct bag prior to boarding. Since the recent, more onerous security checks have been imposed I have ensured that I carry the bare minimum through customs – passport, tickets, newspaper, nothing else – to make things as easy as possible. I’ve still had to go through the ridiculous rigmarole of getting dressed airside after having removed my shoes and belt landside, and I think that the current restrictions are in the main absurd (although the hour wasted in a pointless queue also means a hour saved wasting money in an overpriced bar airside.) But no, I haven’t had a problem with airport security, by which I mean the security staff, who were the object of your insults and hence the reason for my initial comment.

    John, you’re an intelligent man, or so it is claimed; but the rules – ridiculous as they are – say that you can’t take scissors or liquids over a certain volume in your hand luggage, so why even try? The security staff, I would suggest, have zero discretion over what they can or cannot allow onboard, and so do not deserve your blanket contempt.

  7. December 1, 2009 at 11:34 am | #7

    Chris pretty much says everything here. Yes, the individuals who follow orders to enforce crazy nonsense might not be bad people in their own right, any more than a policeman beating people over the head in a baton charge is a bad person. That's irrelevant. They're the primary enforcers of a system that deserves blanket contempt, and hence deserve blanket contempt.

    On the 'scissors', 'liquids' point – sometimes I carry things around, and sometimes the things that I find useful include scissors and liquids. Because I have no desire to spend any more time in aviation security than is absolutely compulsory, I try and avoid carrying them through aviation security. Sometimes I only remember that I'm carrying the bloody things when I reach the pre-security tables, and so have to throw them away (I try and avoid checking luggage if I can – it's one more thing to wait for and/or lose – I understand but have no wish to emulate your giving up on that point); about twice since everything went silly I've failed to spot them before the checkpoint.

  8. December 1, 2009 at 8:19 pm | #8

    Well then you really do sound like you’re a more unpleasant individual that I’d thought at the outset; an allegation of blanket contempt, for example, it something one is expected to take issue with, not seek to justify. I’m also baffled, looking back at your initial comments on the forum, as to why you affect disdain for bullies; it suggests either hypocrisy or a lack of self-awareness.

    Still, I wish you luck – with your attitude you’ll need it – and I’ll leave you where I came in, by pointing out the obvious; that if you do dehumanise and have blanket contempt for any particular grouping of individuals then you really should expect problems each time you encounter one of those individuals; but disentangling their culpability from you own admitted prejudice is impossible, and pointless.

  9. December 1, 2009 at 8:24 pm | #9

    That's an utterly absurd statement. I have blanket contempt for a great many groups, including but not limited to: rapists; genocidaires; violent religious extremists. Am I dehumanising and/or bullying them? Is that wrong of me?

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