Readers respond on airport security in the aftermath of 9/11
Air travel changed forever after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Despite stepped-up security, many airline passengers say they feel more hassled than safer.
Seattle Times staff columnist
Remember getting to the airport an hour early with time to spare? Or arranging to meet someone at the gate for a quick bite as they passed through town between flight connections?
The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks changed air travel forever.
Show up at the airport any later than two hours before your flight, and risk missing your plane.
Agree to either a full-body X-ray scan or full-body pat-down.
Leave the homemade jams and jellies at home, or stow them in your checked luggage and hope they don't break.
Snow globes? Don't even think about putting one in your carry-on bag. Scissors? Yes, as long as the blades are shorter than 4 inches.
Confused? Consult the Transportation Security Administration's website (www.tsa.gov) for a list of banned items, but keep in mind that "Transportation security officers may determine that an item not on the Prohibited Items List is prohibited."
In a column a few weeks ago, I asked for your comments on whether changes in airport security made you feel safer or just more hassled. Not surprisingly, most of you said "hassled" in comments posted on seattletimes.com, sent to me in emails or posted on The Seattle Times' Facebook page.
Several of you questioned the TSA's one-size-fits-all screening techniques.
"I feel harassed, foolish and offended, but not safer," said a reader using the screen name, "Iconoclast." "My experience with my elderly wheelchair-bound mother at the screening station was infuriating."
A North Olympic Peninsula reader said he stopped flying several years ago, saying that "old ladies and little kids are subjected to intrusions that are mind-boggling in today's technological society. ... Our government is too divided to make meaningful changes to security that could track and profile real threats."
Robert Condon, of Seattle, said he would accept the hassle "if I was convinced it added to my security. But I'm not convinced. In fact, TSA reacts only to the last threat that they failed to identify in advance ... then creates more demeaning procedures for all of us. What to do about it? Take a leaf from the Israeli book: concentrate on the likely terrorists."
A few of you pointed out that security checks at foreign airports seem smoother and more efficient.
"Like most, I do not feel safer when flying but do feel harassed for no good reason," wrote a Bellingham reader. "It's easier to go through security in Beijing, Bangkok, New Delhi, Cairo and Athens than anywhere in the U.S. Changing foreign policy might improve security for flying, but TSA will not."
Shoeless in Seattle
"What good does it do for everyone to take off their shoes?" asked R.B. Maye, of Brooklyn, N.Y., who passed through Sea-Tac Airport recently.
"I can understand metal-toed work boots, but rubber saddles? I always wonder about picking up foot fungus, walking where people have walked in their socks or bare feet."
A reader from Dublin pointed out that most European airports don't require passengers to remove their shoes. "It's a superficial pseudo-saftey check," he said.
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says changes are coming.
"One of the first things you will see over time is the ability to keep your shoes on," Bloomberg News quoted Napolitano as saying at a forum in Washington D.C. last week.
Equally as annoying to some is the extra scrutiny TSA gives people with knee or hip replacements or other metal body parts.
"I set off the bells and whistles," wrote B. Rauch, of Mercer Island.
"I am made to stand there, sometimes for a very long time, with my arms extended while I am touched in places my doctor does not touch me. I am 80 years old. This does not make me feel safer."
About Travel Wise
Carol Pucci's column is aimed at helping people travel smart, especially independent travelers seeking good value. Drawing on her own experiences and readers', she'll cover everything from the best resources to how to tap into the local culture.
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