Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Paradigm Shift
One change most readers won't know about is the paradigm shift in how TSA looks at passengers vs. the previous contractor screeners. If you talk to any of the TSA screeners long enough you will probably hear them refer to passengers as customers. That was drilled into everyone in training- our customers are the traveling public and we are there to serve them. I never got that feeling with the airline contract screeners.

Security experts are concerned about the customer service focus. To many of them the friendly attitudes and concerns over lines are signs that customer service will be seen as more important than doing a good job of security. One of the challenges of the job is knowing how to be both friendly and vigilant. The problem with security jobs is that most folks are not bad guys, so you tend to get in the habit of treating everyone as a good guy. That makes it easier for the bad guys to penetrate security.

Has TSA found that happy medium? Too soon to tell in my opinion. I know we are very good at customer service. Until some test results are in it is hard to tell how good we are doing on the vigilant part. The system is not ever going to be perfect, but for what it costs it had better be superior to the previous system or we have wasted a lot of tax payer dollars.

Sunday, December 08, 2002

Letter Time
I like to publish emails I receive when they express interesting viewpoints. This one fits that definition and I'm reproducing it in its entirety:

Hello,

I just read your response to Yates' e-article, and I still don't understand either what you're doing or why!

Do you honestly believe that our airline traffic is down because of the work of 19 whackos 15 months ago? No Way! It is down because we free Americans are all treated like criminals.

I stopped flying, except for emergencies, when the airlines caved in to the anti-tobacco whackos. After the post-911 restrictions come in, I determined that I would NEVER fly again. If I can't get there in my car I won't go there.

I will fly again when I can walk unimpeded into an airport, buy a ticket with cash, and walk unmolested onto the plane carrying my briefcase, pistol and knife; When I can relax with a cigarette after the landing gear is retracted; When I am not being charged extra money to support paranoia.

If someone attempts a hijack, I will defend myself, with my life if necessary. I am a free American citizen, and with that freedom comes responsibility. I DO NOT abrogate that responsibility to a pack of idiotic bureaucrats.

And I don't believe I am the only person who feels this way!

If you have any class, you will resign your position, expressing sentiments similar to mine.

Jim Gardner (former frequent flyer)


Before delving into the security aspects of the email let me take a little side trip into tobacco land. I'm 100% in favor of letting people smoke. Heck, I think at some point I blogging about my idea to sell tobacco under a cool name like Dr. Jay's Indian Death Weed. At the same time I'm a big believer in the old saying "your right to swing your fist ends with my nose." I remember the pre-smoking ban days and I'd prefer not to have to breath anyone's smoke.

I agree with Mr. Gardner that 9/11 did not in and of itself hurt the airline industry. What truly hammered them was the slowdown in the economy. Evidence of this is that some airlines such as Southwest continue to make money. The airlines like United with high costs who got fat on high business ticket prices during the boom of the late 1990's are the ones hurting. We likely would have ended up in this spot anyway. 9/11 only accelerated the trend.

Even if the government let you carry your pistol on the plane, I have the feeling that the airlines wouldn't. I would not be too keen on flying if I thought the drunk guy next to me was going to threaten the flight attendent who refused to serve him with a gun. Then after the ensuing fire fight everyone would light up.

An airborne version of the wild west won't encourage people to fly. Neither will a system that imposes intrusive searches on fliers. And fliers like Mr. Gardner will get to vote with their dollars on where that middle ground is. After December 31st a flier can be subjected to three rounds of searches. Once when he checks his bags, once at the checkpoint, and potentially again at the gate. If that is too much people will stay away from the airports which will be a failure as far as TSA is concerned. We want people to fly. The airline run system couldn't find that happy medium before 9/11. Now Congress has decided to try. And we will see.....