Friday, 26 March 2010

Plane Ridiculous

An airport worker is "traumatised" after her colleague used one of the new 'naked' body scanners on her while making lewd comments. Needless to say this is disgusting behaviour and I hope the louse gets fired. Yet this only fuels my abhorrence for these scanners and their ability to see through people's clothing. It's like something from the sci-fi fantasy of a horny adolescent geek.
If airport staff are traumatised by someone ogling their naked form, then has anybody considered that passengers will feel equally distressed by undergoing such indecency? I already anticipate having my dignity stripped away whenever I fly. Instructed to take off layers of clothing, and my shoes, to pass through security, I am then - semi-clad and barefoot - given a full body rub-down by a strange woman whose name I don't even know.

All this to go on holiday, eh?

I don't like these scanners, and if the day comes where I am forced to walk through one, I would rather opt for a pat-down and bag search... although if do take that option I risk being denied boarding. Taking off my shoes is one thing, but being seen naked by strangers to make sure I am not concealing explosives is the final straw for me. Frankly, I'd rather travel by train if only it were always a viable option. (This is a good move for environmentalists, it must be said).

Airline representatives can bleat on all they want about these naked images not being kept, or looked at for too long, but the fact remains - people I don't know get to see my private parts, and nobody can guarantee that lewd thoughts don't cross their minds, even for a second. This is the sort of treatment criminals get when being shuffled between prisons, and the general population does not deserve it.

Up until the introduction of the scanners, I thought airlines had gone bonkers enough. Let's consider the liquid restrictions on carry-on baggage. Passengers are forbidden to take liquids onboard of more than 100ml per item. (Unless, of course, you purchase them after you've cleared security. This prevents you from bringing on anything expensive that you could be buying from Duty Free instead. Hats off, this is smart business). The thing that really intrigues me, however, is the logic behind these restrictions on liquids.
A group of nutcase extremists once attempted to blow up a flight by packing some liquid explosives in their carry-on luggage. Their plan was to gather their materials together and construct the bomb on board the aircraft. Apparently they had two kinds of liquid explosives - one carried inside batteries (which, by the way, you are still allowed to take in your hand luggage), and the other carried inside 500ml drink bottles. Fortunately these human stains were caught before they could go through with it.

Following this near-miss, it seems a few chaps on a committee were feeling the pressure. So they got together and decided that from now on, passengers would only be permitted to carry containers of liquids no larger than 100ml, which they would present to security in a clear plastic bag. I do not fathom that they believed this would prevent such a threat from happening again. It wouldn't.

When I travel I can take at least six 100ml containers with me whilst keeping within security guidelines. Is 600ml of liquid in separate containers safer than 500ml of liquid in one bottle? Certainly it allows airport staff to keep an eye on things (other than our private parts, of course) but realistically, if extremists wanted to harm us again, this is not going to stop them. They can buy bottles of water once they clear security, decant their 100ml bottles of liquid into them, keep calm and carry on. (Sure I don't know the first thing about explosives, but I hear these terrorists are pretty persistent).

Similar confusing logic applies to the restrictions on hand baggage. Personally, I refuse to pay exorbitant amounts to check in a suitcase these days, and have now mastered the art of travelling with hand baggage only. I measure my baggage before I travel to ensure I am within the size restrictions. Weight might be another matter, although I find if I carry my bag on my shoulder, and act like it weighs nothing, nobody checks.

This is where it really gets ridiculous.

If you do get your bag weighed, and it's over the weight limit, you have to pay for it to go into the hold. Unless, of course, you take out some of your clothing items, and put them on. This is fine. It's also fine if you give some of your items to your travelling companion, if their bag is under the limit.

I cannot be the first person to realise that you are STILL TAKING THE SAME WEIGHT ONBOARD? All the rapped-knuckle-logic being spouted by the fluoro-clad airport staff about the importance of weight restrictions is ludicrous. It's fantasy. If my bag is 5kg overweight, and I take out 5kg of clothing and wear it on the flight, (where I will then take it off and put it back in my bag before I am seated), it makes no difference to anyone. Except the airline, who look like they are in control of the situation, should a situation ever occur.

(I don't blame the general airport staff - I have worked for major airlines in my time, and one of the reasons I left the business was because I didn't like spouting nonsense to passengers, when I knew it didn't make sense. I think it's safe to say most staff don't agree with, or even understand, half of what they are told to enforce).

This feels too much like a case of needing to be seen to take preventative measures, rather than taking measures that are actually preventative. Such measures probably don’t exist, short of banning everyone from flying. Taking religion's route of using fear and guilt to control the masses, these rules appear to be in place for no other reason than to make us feel like we're being protected. Yet at what cost? Where does the attempt to control our safety actually end?
Gone are the days of going on holiday and enjoying the journey as much as the destination. Now we are tagged, stripped, patted-down, searched, scanned, fined, and our good shampoo confiscated before we even get there.

Do I feel safe? I really couldn't say yes.

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