A Passenger's Concern: How Safe Are Airport Security Measures?

A Passenger's Concern: How Safe Are Airport Security Measures?

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A Passenger's Concern: How Safe Are Airport Security Measures?


Air travel is a fast and convenient way to reach a destination. Even if many passengers may complain of missed flights, delays during the holidays, and the number of carry-ons they are allowed to bring onto the plane, air travel is an important part of quick transportation.

One essential part of the airport system is security. Today, security is a major priority that airports must administer strictly. Due to the recent terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, airports along with airlines want their customers to feel safe.

An interest in airport security took me to the Tallahassee Regional Airport. Except for the holiday rush, the facility is not a busy place. I arrive there on a Saturday afternoon about one week after the terrorist attacks. Housed in a large rectangular building, there is not a lot of activity taking place outside of the airport. One or two people meander out of the airport walking towards the parking lot and yellow taxi cabs line one side of the building. No curbside parking is allowed and there are police officers posted in front of the building to make sure that travelers abide by this rule.

I enter the airport and seat myself in front of the ticket counters. I expect the employees to be thorough while asking the usual security questions. Has your luggage been in your possession at all times? Has anyone given you anything or asked you to carry on or check any items for them? These are very important questions to ask, because a tactic used by terrorists is to hide a bomb inside an unsuspecting person's luggage. Another tactic is to give something, maybe a toy or stuffed animal to someone who is about to board a plane. That innocent-seeming object may actually be a bomb or some other harmful device (How Airport Security Works, 1-2).

With police officers roaming throughout the airport I do not want to look conspicuous. I try to resemble others who are patiently waiting for friends or family. I theorize that if people know you are observing them they put on a façade. By not involving myself, I am capable of watching the passengers interact with the security measures without altering their routine with my presence.

As I sit in the uncomfortable chairs, I notice that there are not many passengers checking in. The ticket counters have only one or two people working.

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But, within thirty minutes more people begin to check in. I look at the faces of the passengers searching for any sign of fear or hesitation. There is none. People are going on with their normal life activities. These nonchalant appearances that passengers have led me to research more into whether they are concerned about security measures.

The ticket attendants make it clear to the travelers about allowing only one carry-on per person and stress the possibility of random searches by security before getting on the plane. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, travelers must be prepared to present a valid photo identification card with their boarding passes. The attendants also explain that without a ticket no one can pass through the next point of security, the metal detectors. Anyone who comes to the airport to pick up friends or family will have to wait on the other side. The passengers comply with these requests and there are no disagreements or questions.

Since security is a major concern for passengers and airlines, I researched the paper and electronic ticket. I wanted to know which one was purchased more and if one type of ticket was safer then the other ticket. Travelers' fly billions of miles each year and unfortunately sometimes they use tickets constructed from stolen ticket stock-the paper upon which a ticket is imprinted. The Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC), the largest supplier of airline ticket stock worldwide and the chief supplier for U.S. travel agents, attest that losses from stolen ticket stock are somewhat minor, costing the multibillion-dollar airline industry only a few million dollars annually. However, travel agencies object, arguing that the thefts of ticket stock cost billions of dollars annually (Aviation 1).

ARC declares that stolen ticket stock is less detrimental with the use of electronic tickets. The continuous increase in electronic ticketing, according to many airline officials, will lessen the need for airline ticket stock and therefore may eventually reduce ticket stock theft (Aviation 20). Many officials also note that the steady increase in electronic ticketing may soon determine the problem because, with paper tickets, travel agencies and other ticket distributors will have less need to hold large inventories of airline ticket stock. This reduces the chance for possible theft. At the end of 1998, over 32 percent of all airline transaction reports, by travel agencies to ARC, are electronic tickets (Aviation 23).

Even though the traveling public did not appear to be at risk from terrorists or illegal aliens who could use tickets from stolen ticket stock, airline industries at the time believed that unsuspecting passengers purchased and used the majority of these tickets. Officials stress that terrorists are unlikely to knowingly use tickets from stolen stock because doing so will likely increase their risk of detection. Moreover, they point out that organized terrorist groups have sufficient financial backing and access to falsified personal identification to purchase legitimate tickets (Aviation 16).

Although the electronic ticket is emphasized to be safer and more convienent, I did encounter a problem during a flight across the United States. My returning flight from Utah to Florida did not contain the convienence and safety of the electronic ticket. As I checked in before I boarded the plane the ticket attendant could not find my name in the computer. After repeated attempts to locate my name the ticket attendant discovered that my ticket had been listed under the name of a friend who traveled with me. After we checked our bags we proceeded to the departing gate to receive a paper ticket. The ticket attendant at the gate handed us our tickets barely glancing at our driver's licenses. As I checked the ticket I discovered that she gave me the wrong ticket. The ticket had the wrong name on it and I had showed her my driver's license. Even though using the electronic ticket caused problems I blame the ticket attendants for being irresponsible.

I interviewed a person who frequently flies to get an idea about the security measures of other airports. Robert Barrett, the program manager of TF30/TF33/J52 Engines with Pratt & Whitney, a United Technologies Company, travels in and outside of the United States. He has experienced the security process of many international airports.
I began my interview to obtain his opinion on the recent attacks on the United States.
"Before the September 11, 2001 attacks, what was your opinion on airline security?"

"Marginal. Airline security was not aggressive enough to detect criminal intent or weapons."

I then asked him to describe the airports in the countries that he had traveled to. I wanted to know if international airports administered airport security measures more strictly then American airports.
"What security measures do international airports perform?"

"I have been to the airports in London, England, Sydney, Australia, Lisbon, Portugal, and Israel. Every airport except Israel has about the same security measures as the United States. Israel has a very stiff airport security upon leaving. You have to be prepared for at least a three-hour wait in line. They check your bags, x-ray your carry-on, and conduct a one on one interview for at least ten minutes asking questions such as why you were in their country, where did you travel, and you must show something that validates where you traveled. The interrogators are individuals who work for the Israeli government. They are attempting to catch a contradictory response during the interview."

I also wondered if Americans thought that if the United States wanted to adopt these measures it would be feasible?
"After witnessing the strict measures that Israel executes do you think that our airport security measures will eventually be modeled after Israel?"

"The United States government has taken measures to secure air travel, however, these measures need to continue. We should model our security after the airports in Israel. We should be prepared to wait at the airports for long periods of time as long as we are assured of reaching our destination on time. This may be difficult to achieve since Americans are impatient and visual results oriented."

I then asked him whether he used paper or electronic tickets. Are electronic tickets used more when traveling internationally or do other countries prefer paper tickets?
"In terms of tickets what do you prefer, paper or electronic? Why do you prefer this one? And which one do you think is safer?"

"The ticket that I usually use is electronic. It is easily attainable over the Internet. Both require identification checks. A paper ticket could possibly be stolen or lost so I would consider the electronic ticket to be safer. Countries do not prefer one to the other. It is up to the traveler to choose the type of ticket." (Barrett, Interview).

The relationship between passengers and airport security has developed a new connection. Security and precaution is the number one priority on both the passenger and airline mind. Airlines, such as Delta provides up to date information regarding flights and the precautions that it is taking to ensure the safety of its passengers. Passengers can look up this information on the Internet. Airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration websites also provide this service. If attacks occur once again there may be a large decrease in air travel, and airline profits may suffer even more then they did during the month of September. (Delta Reports September Traffic, 1).

Airport security measures may differ around the world, but as an American and due to the recent attacks revolving around air travel, I do have concerns as to whether security measures are strictly enforced in the United States. I believe that the American system of airport security should embrace the strict measures that other airports enforce. As for the Tallahassee Regional Airport, it has followed through with taking extra measures to secure their airlines and passenger safety. According to my friend, Melanie Lovasz, the airport is enforcing strict measures. Unaware of the new rule that any sharp objects should not be in carry-on luggage, her tweezers and pocket mirror had been confiscated before boarding the plane (Lovasz, Interview).

To ensure passengers that it is safe to fly, security measures should continue to be strict and well enforced. As people try to continue on with their lives there will always be doubt as to whether the airline they are flying on is safe. If security measures remain effective, it will give back the confidence that passengers have lost in air travel.

Works Cited

Barrett, Robert. Personal Interview. October 18, 2001.

"Delta Reports September Traffic". Delta.com, 2001. Online. Yahoo. Internet.
11 Oct. 2001. Available …/tacindex.jsp?file=SeptTraffic.html&tactype=
Current&tacitem=Release&title=Delta%20R.

"FAA Advises Air Travelers on Airport, Airline Security Measures." Federal
Aviation Administration Public Affairs, 2001. Online. Yahoo. Internet.
14 Oct. 2001. Available http://www.faa.gov/apa/update.htm.

"How Airport Security Works." How Stuff Works, 2001. Online. Yahoo. Internet.
27 Sept. 2001. Available http://www.howstuffworks.com/airport-security.
htm.

Lovasz, Melanie. Personal Interview. October 14, 2001.

United States. General Accounting Office. Report to the Chairman,
Subcommittee on Aviation, Committee on Transportation and
Infrastructure, House of Representatives: Issues Associated with
of Theft of Stock Used to Create Airline Tickets. Washington: GAO, 1999.
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