Patently Ludicrous

The TSA’s decision on Thursday to ban liquids from all carry on baggage is totally ludicrous.

Allegedly, a major “terrorist plot” was foiled on Thursday, which could potentially have involved the bombing of several passenger air craft loaded with innocent civilians. This would, of course, have been a tragedy, and it’s reasonable to take some precautions after unearthing such a plot. People dying isn’t terribly good for the airline industry, after all.

But the lengths to which the TSA has gone are too far. I understand the desire to prevent passengers from carrying bomb components onto air craft. After all, most people with limited chemistry knowledge would be able to make a bomb out of several inert ingredients which could be stored in things like shampoo bottles, contact lens solution containers, and so forth.

Banning all fluids from airplanes is not the solution, especially given that recirculated air is highly dehydrating. I usually bring two full Nalgenes on any trans-Atlantic flight, and at least one for domestic flights, to keep my body properly hydrated, moist, and healthy. Most airlines charge now for drinks, which means that if you forgot to bring money or were simply poor, you could face a twelve hour flight without any water. It’s compounded on larger aircraft where cabin crew are serving a large number of passengers, and may take a long time to get to every passenger–and when the passengers are reached, they might be given eight ounce bottles of water, if they’re lucky. That’s utterly ridiculous. People need water. This is something which we should all have access to.

If the TSA wants me to drink from my bottle to prove that it contains water and nothing else, that’s fine. If the TSA wants to ban opaque containers or gels, I’m ok with that too. But you are not allowed to restrict my access to drinking water, something which may cause a health crisis on a plane very, very soon since these measures were put in effect immediately on Thursday morning.

The TSA also says that it plans to be screening passengers from Britain more heavily, which is bound to cause snarls and delays on both ends, something which may potentially decrease the number of people willing to make the arduous trip. Additionally, the TSA claims it will be increasing “border enforcement,” which translates to longer lines at customs after an already exhausting flight. It is also asking passengers to be “extra vigilant,” since apparently these security measures aren’t enough. I suspect, however, that this vigilance is going to translate into harassment for fliers who look different, speak another language, or are young. I certainly won’t be studying Arabic while waiting for my flight anymore.

Furthermore, passengers are being asked to pack “lightly” in their carry on–in short, to take virtually nothing into the cabin of the aircraft. Certainly nothing electronic. You won’t be able to take a laptop or portable music player, in all liklihood. This is a real bummer for two reasons: the first is that on long flights, people need something to entertain themselves with. Being able to zone out to an mp3 player, read a book, get some work done–all of these things are ways to pass the time, and help the passenger forget that ou is packed into a tin can with a bunch of other humans and some screaming babies. The second reason is that a lot of frequent fliers travel like I do–we only take carry on luggage, so that we don’t have to wait for our luggage at luggage claims. It’s a win win situation for the airline, which still charges full price but doesn’t have to handle or transport heavy checked bags, and it’s great for us because we can travel lightly and efficiently. Frequent fliers are the core base for a lot of airlines, and upsetting your frequent fliers is not a good idea–it’s a great way to lose customer base, and the ability to stay in business.

Is the TSA trying to destroy the airline industry, because that’s the feeling I’m getting here. The TSA has so restricted what we can carry when flying that it seems like eventually luggage will be banned altogether, and we will be asked to fly naked (tranquilized, of course, just in case we’re hiding something in an orifice). It’s the feeling I get every time I fly, and am subjected to humiliating exams in the “back room” of the airport. It’s the feeling I get when I see long snaking lines at security of frustrated people who are obviously rethinking their plans to fly–I tell you what, the next time I go to the East Coast, I’m taking the train.

This is absurd. The terrorists are winning when passengers can’t take a goddamn Nalgene onto an airplane.