In the aftermath of Sep 11, airport security has been further tightened throughout the US. Even with the best measures being taken, it is not always possible to totally eradicate terrorism. So we got to learn to accept that terrorism is just one more risk of traveling that we cannot completely control. Just like the risk of flying, the odds of being a victim of a terrorist attack or hijacking is one in eleven million. The good that come out of these past tragedies are better counter measures.
Screening for prohibited items at the Airports has been painstakingly thorough. Every entrance into the departure halls has been heavily patrolled. Passengers are being checked with handheld detectors, frisked and searched. I was a Captain of a flight operating from Dubai to New York and I was screened and frisked three times. I had to take off my shoes and put them through the x-ray machines. I did not mind their thoroughness even though I was flying the airplane for it showed that when it comes to security, nothing is taken for granted by those who are responsible.
In the face of these cumbersome procedures and inconveniences, we all have two choices: One, is to cancel your flight and stay on the ground forever or two, prepare yourself to deal with these potential problems.
What can you, as an air traveler do, to alleviate the anxieties of an air journey that you have to undertake? Many readers have been asking me for advice on how to make their trip more pleasant. Well, I am not a security expert but the few tips that I have gathered would hopefully smarten and prepare you mentally to avoid any dangers that are unforeseen.
If you are departing from some of the major international airports, it is wise not to further aggravate the overcrowding there. Say goodbyes in cars rather than at the departure lounges. Avoid spending long hours waiting in the airports and expose yourselves to dangers. Lock all luggage to discourage anyone from putting anything in them for shipment aboard the airplane. Refuse to carry a package for anyone unless they belong to a personal friend. Do not stand or sit next to large plate glass windows but rather sit or stand next to a column or supportive structure. Be familiar with all the escape exits. Stay away from unattended baggage and notify the airport security if you come across a suspicious bag. Stay in the center of a crowd, but not to the extent of being trampled, in an evacuation alert for it provides you a buffer between you and the dangers. The list goes on but it is common sense that prevails in the end.
What are the additional measures being taken to further enhance safety of the traveling public? Well, they include increasing the number of air marshals, newer standards for passenger screeners, positive baggage match, increased cockpit security, new restrictions on what passengers can carry onto the airplane and changes in the cargo types and screening.
After Sep 11, investigations revealed that the screeners at the airports where the hijackers originated were poorly paid and under qualified. The US Congress has passed legislation increasing their pay but that they would be required to undergo 10-year background check and no one would be hired with criminal records.
Since April 2003, reinforced cockpit doors have been installed in all airliners operating in the US. In the past, cockpit doors have been designed to break at 130 pounds of pressure, but today, with the new regulations, these doors have been redesigned to provide a resistance of about 1500 pounds.
So there are no absolute guarantees against being in the midst of some terrorism acts in the airport or in flight but the part played by you, the air traveler and the various parties concerned would help to reduce the odds. Happy and safe flying!