When new leaders are appointed or elected, they will often make a bunch of immediate changes to policies, etc, in order to establish their leadership and to make a name for themselves. These changes aren’t always needed and sometimes productivity suffers initially under a new regime. Other times, changes are desperately needed but are ignored by a new leader unless something triggers the necessary events that lead to alterations. Airport Security was one of these areas that desperately needed some changes. On Christmas day, 2009, a crazed “would be” bomber triggered these changes when he inadvertently set his pants on fire while trying to blow up the airplane that was carrying him over Detroit. New rules were introduced.
Q: Can I expect the rules to be predictable and strict at all airports?
A: There are no “official” changes to the rules governing the airports themselves, and their security policies. Most new rules apply only to international flights coming into this country and as such, It’s up to the individual airlines (and pilots) to enforce them. But as our beloved secretary of HSA (“Crazy Janet” Napolitano) says, “Some new rules are designed to be unpredictable!” Basically, you may not be treated the same way you are used to, or even the same way from place to place. Make a game out of it, collect stories, start a blog, whatever, just be ready for anything! This is a good change! It would be tough to rob a bank if they changed the hours, cameras, guards, and policies every day, wouldn’t it? The same theory applies.
Q: I’ve already adjusted my schedule to arrive at airports early, do I need to arrive even earlier than before?
A: The arbitrary nature of the new “flexible rules” system has made things a bit unpredictable. I would wager a very strong guess that the borderline crazy travelers will become even crazier and you’ll see things packed into suitcases that you didn’t think were possible. Then you have the TSA agents trying hopelessly to sort it all out… it’s obviously a good idea to head to the airport as early as possible. If it’s an international flight, I would absolutely recommend beyond measure that you get there at least three hours prior to your scheduled departure. If you think it’s unreasonable to expect someone to arrive at an airport at 3am for a 6:15am departure, you might wish to reschedule your flight. Some airlines are mercifully waiving their change fees for some international flights for this very same reason.
Minimize your potential “delay time.” Get your seat, check in, and pay for your luggage in advance, online. Get out your tape measure and double check that your carry-on meets your airlines posted requirements. Buy smaller travel sized liquids… for goodness sakes, now is not the time to wonder if a half-full shampoo bottle should be allowed.
Q: Can I expect some leniency from airlines regarding checked baggage charges? Especially on international flights?
A: No. One new “flexi-rule” states that passengers can’t have more than ONE (1) carry-on for an international flight. Some airlines are temporarily waiving their checked bagged fee for this reason, but expecting this charity to last is unreasonable. I’ve written about this countless times, now’s a great time to make an extra effort to fit everything you’ll need into ONE carry-on bag.
Q: What’s the real deal with these new X-ray machines?
People are, understandably, a little nervous about the new x-ray machines. It seems that someone out there invented an x-ray backscatter machine that can reduce a traveler down to his/her naked form. Then they demonstrated the machine to our government who loved them so much, they bought hundreds of them at a cost of about $150,000 each. Their plan now is to buy thousands more and to install them in airports all over the country. Do they work? Well, they do produce a perfect image of your naked body, yes. Do they improve security? My hunch is “no,” since bad guys don’t usually carry explosives on their person… the chemicals are running through the decidedly LOW tech x-ray machine on the other side. Are they embarrassing? I don’t think so. The viewers of the images are stationed far away from the scanners, they have no idea who the actual people are that are who are being scanned. Can my naked picture end up on the internet? Absolutely not, as they’re immediately encrypted and deleted when the viewer clicks to move on to the next image. Will they appear in all airports? No. They’ll move around, adding to the unpredictability of the new rules.
Q: Are other changes on the horizon?
I hope so. I know for a fact that right now, the TSA has agents who walk among the traveling public, intelligently observing their behavior. This, I believe, is the single greatest weapon we have against terrorism. I hope that more of this type of profiling is scheduled to be done in the future.
EXTRA: If you have questions for Ken regarding business travel, hotels, airplanes, etc, please call 1-877-49-EXPERT. Your questions will be recorded and sent to him. You can also follow Ken on Twitter @foodbreeze!