Is this a genuine security scare, just another way to collect money from us, or the end of air travel as we know it? I am referring to the latest “security measure” being initiated by the USA and UK forcing passengers emanating from a number of Middle East and North African airports to check in their laptops, notebooks and tablets. As a regular air traveler clocking up over 150,000 air miles each year, I can tell you I’m not just annoyed – I smell a rat.
By now, all the security freaks reading this – the ones brainwashed by all the fear-mongering national security organizations and politicians have pumped us with for years – will be screaming out it’s for our own good.
I have more chance of being run over by a car, being attacked by a loony in the street or being shot by a hunter in France where I live, than by getting blown up by a computer on a plane. But let’s get back to basics.
Osama Bin Laden achieved exactly what he set out to do in the World Trade Center attacks – he changed all our lives (not just Americans) forever. Security measures implemented at all airports in the world have made air travel a tedious, mind-numbing and aggravating experience. The security inconsistencies from one airport to another make it farcical at times, and when you have the audacity to ask why the rules changed from the day before you are met with a hostile glare and the threat of missing your flight. I have learned you have no rights at all when you step into that security queue – none.
Now it seems that all those x-ray machines, scanners and explosive swab testers were really just a smokescreen, and having to take your portable devices out of their snug bags so they could be x-rayed separately was all for show. This new directive says to me that none of those things really have any effect. They now want us to put them into our checked luggage. Don’t ask why, you’ll just get the same old “security reasons” answer and “it’s for your own good to protect you”.
Protect me from what, exactly? I’d like some protection from the intrusive checks and the often-grumpy and officious staff manning checkpoints. So the device will now be safer in the hold of the plane. Really? If somebody really wanted to use it to blow up the plane, would it be less of a threat down there? I doubt it. I can’t think of any reason a checked device would be safer than one that goes through closer inspection as carry-on.
News reports suggest that it is more difficult to trigger an explosive device in the hold. That’s another furphy. Many are triggered by mobile phones simply by calling the number. And with mobile phone use being offered on many international flights, that argument loses all credibility.
Of course, the adamant bomber could simply add an altimeter switch that triggers at a certain height or air pressure – an old favorite from days gone by.
I recall many years ago my notebook being weighed at a German airport to confirm it was legitimate and, more recently, being asked to turn on every device to ensure they worked. Am I supposed to believe that x-raying checked luggage will be more effective? Get real. What it will do is highlight which bags have computing devices in them making them much easier targets for unscrupulous ground handling staff. Oh, my apologies to the honest ones out there, but having had stuff stolen from my bags on numerous occasions gives me the right to point this out. And I suspect I am not the only one.
And how many devices will be destroyed in checked luggage as it is dropped or tossed around. Will we have special tags to highlight the bags containing valuable kit that need special handling? What will happen to travel insurance prices if you want total coverage?
It may actually be a boon for some airlines that charge extra for checked luggage. For the 90% of short-term business travellers that only take carry-on, often with a notebook or tablet, they will be forced to pay extra.
I, for one, will no longer be travelling on airlines that hub at the affected airports. I wonder how many others will follow suit. I cannot travel without my computer – it is critical for my work, and I don’t plan to spend two to ten hours on any flight without the ability to work, or risk it being stolen or destroyed as checked luggage.
Maybe, I’m reading this wrong – maybe it’s just a ploy to save the security staff a lot of work. I guess, for “security reasons”, we will never know. We may have to wait for WikiLeaks to tell us the real reasons. I suspect, if this is a real threat, the “threateners” might try out alternative airports in other regions. It won’t be long before this directive spreads, mark my words. Oh, and don’t forget to add an extra hour to get through the massive queues at check in. Now that should be fun.