Airport Security

DC30 nose sectionAirport security is one area of our lives that hasn’t improved over time. It used to be that you could walk to the gate to say goodbye to friends and family, but not any more. In a post 9/11 world, fear and paranoia have made travel much less convenient. For international travel the countries involved need to cross-check passengers to make sure they are not security risks. In some airports shoes have to be removed and x-rayed. Coats need to be x-rayed. Computers removed from the bag for separate scanning. Even mp3 players are being banned. Our bags are swiped for explosive residue. Our drinking bottles are confiscated or scanned for explosives as well. Restrictions on the weight of lithium-ion in batteries which can be brought on board recently appeared. How much gel and cream one can have. How these items need to be carried. More and more of our flight experience is being regulated.

Our bags are continually being searched. Considering stories about how baggage handlers go through luggage pawning cameras and other items on e-Bay, do the security measures really protect us. Loss of computers going through the metal detectors is another concern with identity theft and other concerns for our data walking away at these checkpoints. The loss of items at checkpoints is not just due to theft, but forgetting about them in the hustle and bustle to get our clothes back on after having to take them off to get through the checks.

There are certain expectations one has when traveling. Getting to ones destination safely is definitely an important one. And many of these requirements are in place for our safety. They are in response to real and suspected threats. However, only an infinitesimal number of travelers are actually risks, yet the rest of us are made suspect just in case. Technology is being brought to bear by creating traveler databases, improved sharing of information between nations, explosive sniffers, more sophisticated x-ray scanners, facial recognition, and more. But does it all really make us safer?

Traveling domestically in Japan is very different from the US experience. I can bring bottled drinks onto a flight, they just have to place them on a scanner to test for explosives. My shoes stay on, removing a coat is optional, and no one cares who I am, just whether or not I have a boarding pass. Walking through security does not have to make you feel like a suspected criminal. If I have an item that can not be taken on board, but I forgot to put in my checked-in luggage, the item will be taken, given to the airline, and returned to me in the baggage claim area.

Will improved technologies make getting through security easier? Will we be able to walk to the gate to wish farewell to those traveling? And while walking, can we keep our shoes on. Or will the airline gates remain walled off from all but those with boarding passes? Will the “improvements” to security continue to limit what we can bring, and increase the waiting times. Security can be done in a dignified manner, but is this the direction we are heading?

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