Boycott Watch
December 28, 2009
Op-Ed: New Airline Travel Fear, FAA Policy Feckless
By Fred Taub
Boycott Watch
    After one attempt and a copycat scare to bring down American jetliners over Detroit, Michigan in as many days, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has implemented new policies restricting passengers from going to the bathroom or having blankets in the last hour of flights. It does not take a genius to realize this is a meaningless response to terrorism since the terrorists can just act sooner in flights. What it is though is the Brady approach to airline safety.

    Brady Laws, as they are known, named for James Brady who bravely took a bullet to save the life of President Reagan in 1981, place restrictions on law abiding citizens to purchase guns, as criminals do not buy guns from lawful dealers. The same applies to the new FAA rules restricting airline passengers from going about their normal business. The parallel is clear - rather than taking immediate action to screen potential terrorists by requiring the screening of all passengers in oversees stopover flights to the United States, the Obama administration is taking feel-good actions to limit the actions of the average law abiding citizen.

    Then there's CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations which published a story on December 7, 2009 called "Passenger Makes Up Islamic Terror Fantasy" which is meant to villanize Americans who fear Muslims in air travel when terrorism is done in the name of Islam. The fact is Americans have every right to be concerned with their personal safety. Had the airline Christmas Day 2009 passengers heading to Detroit followed the Brady Approach and waited for police to arrive to arrest Northwest Airlines Flight 253 Islamic terrorist Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, they would have all been dead. Passengers took decisive action to save their own lives and those on the ground - the people who took action are heroes just as Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger is. They all went beyond the call of duty and saved lives, but for some reason they have not been recognized as the heroes they are.

    By this time, Al-Quada and other terrorists are rethinking their methodologies to implement the same explosives on American jetliners while the Obama administration is working to block what has already failed and probably won't be tried again. President Obama is playing checkers while Al-Quada and other terrorists are playing chess. Sure, it is hard to anticipate the plans of terrorists, but that's Homeland Security's job.

    From a consumer standpoint, the Obama administration has done nothing to belay consumer fears. The reason airlines now charge for the things people used to take for granted like checked baggage is that the airlines are struggling to keep alive in an era of cost cutting with heavy competition. Today's airlines work on pennies per air-mile for profit, making their money on volume, so by not immediately addressing air travel consumer fear the Obama administration is inherently inviting hard financial times on the ever-struggling airline industry.

    From a business standpoint, travel has become somewhat obsolete. Seminars, meetings and training sessions are regularly held via Internet video. Travel is time consuming, taking valuable time away from other projects. Business travel, therefore, is reserved for making an impact statement, be it in sales or solving problems.

    From a recreational travel standpoint, consumers are doing what they have to, and the longer the total air-travel time becomes, the greater the chance potential air-travelers will just drive instead of fly. People don't want hassles so while the new FAA rules may forbid blankets in the last hour of a flight; nobody wants to wait an hour to go to the bathroom. Let's face it - convenience travelers do not want to be denied basic conveniences.

    But that's not how the Obama Administration sees it. The liberal view is to regulate the usage of inanimate objects and even bathrooms while conservatives want to regulate or block personal behavior. Safety, however, is not a matter of political labels, at least it shouldn't be. The question is how to address the issues in a way that improves security and reassures air travelers. So far, the answer has been to make every air traveler feel like criminals by instilling movement restrictions on passengers as if people are cargo. This does little to either reassure air travelers of their safety or to actually address safety.

    Implementing cosmetic changes alone sends the message that the Obama Administration thinks American consumers are stupid and will not realize that putting a red ribbon on garbage does not improve the garbage. Right now the last thing airlines want are jittery potential customers, so the administration needs address actual security concerns. That is if they want the airline industry to survive.

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