Air travel remains safe, both in the US and in Europe, despite recent high profile incidents in Brussels and Istanbul. Nonetheless we do need to be vigilant and adapt to changing threats.
Flying is still safer than driving even factoring in what’s so shocking to watch. While there remain risks, we’re fortunate not to have had a successful plot in the US since 9/11. Europe is closer and easier.
I was on Fox Business earlier today talking to Cheryl Casone about security over the holiday weekend in the aftermath of airport attacks.
Both Brussels and Istanbul have security programs that meet US standards. Both incidents underscore that it’s not just about protecting planes, but that gatherings of people outside of security are at risk too. That means long security lines make us vulnerable, not safe. We need to process people quickly through the checkpoint, not make them queue.
In a February 2002 magazine article I wrote,
..[T]ake the long security screening lines that have become the bane of air travelers everywhere. An ambitious terrorist could easily detonate a bomb in the crowd, killing hundreds and scaring Americans away from air travel–possibly for good. Moving the lines further out of the airports simply recreates the problem elsewhere. And as security measures become more stringent, our freedom to travel is further encumbered, though we aren’t any safer than before.
In Istanbul screening occurs near terminal entrances. And that created a target.
Airports Council International-Europe has pointed out that following the Brussels attacks, additional security measures were put in place at “landside” areas at airports across Europe. …the Istanbul “attack took place at an airport that has systematic landside security checks on all passengers and visitors as they enter the terminal buildings. Many of the fatalities occurred while people were queueing to access the terminal building—an unfortunate reminder that this kind of additional security measures tends to move the target rather than actually securing it.”
We need to get serious about security, but that doesn’t mean more security it means smart security. Three years ago the TSA wanted to stop looking for pocket knives and golf clubs. Those aren’t a huge threat anymore given reinforced cockpit doors and passengers who won’t sit docile in the event of an attack.
That would have been a smart move so the TSA could really focus on the biggest threats. They can’t do everything. They shouldn’t be looking for marijuana or scissors. But it didn’t make for good sound bites, and they were pressured to keep spreading themselves thin. They should have laser like focus on the biggest dangers, and not have distractions of even noticing let alone calling over law enforcement over things that don’t put air travel at risk.
TSA Agents in Charlotte Watch News of the TSA’s Failure to Detect Weapons and Bombs, Instead of Searching for Weapons and Bombs (HT: Tocqueville)
We should redeploy 2800 Behavior Detection Officers to checkpoints to speed people through screening. And we should split up safety regulation from actual screening. The TSA does both now. The FAA is probably our most successful safety regulator in the country, but they don’t fly the planes.
Instead, there’s talk of the TSA adding security checkpoints outside of terminals, such as “in parking garages, terminal entrances, and other areas near the airport.” This pushes out the security perimeter, it doesn’t get people through the perimeter more quickly.