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Travel Detective Blog: The Biggest Gap in Airport Security

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Nearly 25 years after Lockerbie (the crash of Pan Am Flight 103), and more than 11 years after 9/11, there are those who would argue that airport and airline security has improved. Peter is one of those who might disagree. Find out why in his latest blog.

The people who are supposedly trained to inspect our bags and ask us security questions are still dispatched to their posts every day with the same moronic protocols.

Earlier this week, it happened to me, not once, but twice. I was transiting a flight from Capetown to London with a continuing flight to the U.S.

My bags were checked through. I just had to get another boarding pass. I was first intercepted by an American Airlines security agent as I approached the counter. “I first need to ask you some questions.”

“Let me guess,” I countered. “Did I pack all the bags myself? Have they been with me at all times? Did anyone give me anything to bring back?”

The answers, I told him were yes, yes, and no. As they ALWAYS are.

The agent replied, “I’m sorry sir, but I still have to ask you those questions.” So we went through the charade a second time. And the answers were still yes, yes, and no.

Then at the boarding gate, another security agent stopped me — and all the other passengers about to board. And asked the same three questions. In more than 24 years, these questions — and the answers — haven’t changed.

It’s useless, unproductive and could never lead to anything resembling adequate security. Any terrorist, even one where English wasn’t even his second language could easily be trained in the three monosyllabic answers.

As I left the second security agent, I said, can you PLEASE change the questions? This is boring and pathetic.”And it is…they might as well be asking: “Did you pack the bomb in your bag, has the bomb been with you at all times, and did anyone give you another bomb to take along with you?”

True and effective security is enhanced by questions that cannot be answered by a simple yes or no, but requires an engaged conversation. Anything else is meaningless.

Once again, as today’s experience proves, this isn’t security. This is security theater, designed to make people who don’t travel very often feel better. But those of us who DO travel often KNOW BETTER.

What do you think? Sound off in the comments below.

For more of Peter’s thoughts on travel change, check out his most recent Travel Detective blogs:

By Peter Greenberg for