In the early days of air travel, passengers would wear their finest clothes.
Today, just to clear airport security, they must practically undress.
We line up to empty our pockets, remove our belts and shoes. Like sheep, we dutifully remove our liquids and our laptops, subject ourselves and our belongings to search after search – all in the name of security. Now, the Cayman Islands Airports Authority advises us, U.S. transportation safety officials have added even more steps to this already cumbersome process, which starts at check-in and doesn’t end until seat belts are firmly fastened.
The majority of the 1.1 million people who travel in and out of Owen Roberts international Airport are tourists, not terrorists. Already, each is pre-screened, screened and rescreened many times over – and that’s just to get out of the country. Once passengers arrive at their destination, they are subject to another series of checks.
Cayman is not a hotbed of international terrorism. (Have we ever even had a “legitimate terrorist” on our shores?) Yet, the Cayman Islands Airports Authority has been told they must adopt new screening procedures and security checks mandated by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration or risk “additional security restrictions being imposed.”
The new measures include “heightened screening” of electronic devices larger than a cellphone – and will mean even longer wait times for passengers. Will they make travel safer? We doubt it.
For a dozen years or more, airline safety bureaucrats, posing as experts, have piled layer upon layer of screening and restrictions into the passenger queue. Very rarely is a regulation retired, resulting in a security protocol that purports to protect passengers from emerging threats but which in reality is bogged down by an accretion of relics and reactions.
For example, in the 15 years since failed “shoe bomber” Richard Reid boarded a plane bound for Miami wearing footwear packed with explosives, countless travelers have been forced to step out of their shoes and pad through security in stocking feet, even as new screening technologies have been adopted and, one would expect, potential threats have morphed into something far more sophisticated than one’s loading up his loafers with explosives.
In fact, we would argue that “smarter” security procedures (including politically incorrect “profiling”) would keep passengers far safer than our present protocols.
Once again last week, undercover agents managed to sneak contraband items – such as explosive materials, weapons and “drugs” – past TSA at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport in 17 of 18 tries, according to news accounts. That’s a security failure rate of 95 percent.
A similar sting in 2015 yielded similarly dismal results in major airports throughout the U.S. Here in Cayman, airport security staff detect contraband that made it through other airports with regularity.
Those are failures of execution, not a lack of regulations.
These new procedures come at a particularly inopportune time in Cayman, as we are midway through much-needed improvements and expansion of the Owen Roberts International Airport. Our one consolation is that construction-related congestion and confusion will lead to a more pleasant and comfortable (and yes, safer) environment.
If our experience of post-9/11 air travel has taught us anything, it’s that the layers of security bureaucracy (actually it’s an industry) are likely here to stay – making an already unpleasant experience even more unpleasant.
Before issuing more mindless, or useless, dicta, the bureaucrats at the TSA in the U.S. might want to ponder this asymmetry:
While the lines get longer (and tempers get shorter) at the so-called security checkpoints at airports, are the tens of thousands of illegal immigrants flooding across the southwest border of the United States being asked to remove their Nikes before proceeding on their unlawful journeys?