feeding my own misguided insanity

Why Terrorists Should Always Choose to Fly in First Class

April 16, 2012 Shem Radzikowski 8 Comments

I’m not exactly sure when terrorist phobia started becoming part of the general aviation landscape, but I’m pretty sure it had something to do with 9/11. A prime example of how the few bad eggs can spoil it all for the rest of us.

The US, with its finite wisdom, has managed to spread most of its paranoia to the rest of the world, and it seems that nations are not only eating it up with large dessert spoons, they are asking for seconds.

Fear, uncertainly and doubt (FUD) are constantly being fed to societies to quash any resistance or independent thought, for that matter.[1] We’re still waiting to see any evidence of those Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

But let’s not dwell on conspiracy theories or start pointing fingers at who’s to blame for the mess. What I’m curious about is why there isn’t any consistency is the airline and airport experience, from a passengers perspective, as they deal with the countless interpretations of airline security.

My Experiences with Airports

  1. Malta Airport did not allow me to take my bicycle helmet on the plane, stating that it is against airline policy. Of course, ground security services never bothered to check which airline I was flying with that day. They put the helmet into a paper bag and sent it with the rest of the heavy bags. Coincidentally, Lufthansa, the airline I was flying with that day, has no such policy.
  2. Kathmandu Airport did not allow me to take a lighter on board, the same lighter I brought with me from Dubai. They confiscated it even though it’s not classed as a dangerous good, nor is it on FlyDubai’s dangerous goods list. If a lighter is allowed on Lufthansa and Emirates Airlines, why should it be taken away from me by the airport staff?[2]
  3. Bangkok Airport confiscated my cycling multi-tool. It’s also not classed as a dangerous good. I couldn’t understand why, considering that at least 20 airports I’d visited previously didn’t have an issue with it. As if a tire lever would be a good weapon in the hijacking of a plane. On that occasion, I decided to get out of the queue, walked to the first available post office and sent it to myself at home.
  4. Kuala Lumpur Airport confiscated my baby nail safety scissors. Yes, the ones with safety edges to stop a baby hurting themselves. I know, they got me. They foiled my plan to poke holes in the airplane fuel tank.
  5. Istanbul Airport confiscated my bicycle air-pump. Apparently it looked like a stick of dynamite. My highly-animated demonstration of the pump did nothing to convince them of its true intended purpose.
  6. Seattle Airport wanted to confiscate my extended-life battery because it did not look like it was part of the laptop. Come on HP, who was the industrial designer that came up with that brilliant package?
  7. Singapore Airport confiscated my nail clippers. Not nail scissors, but nail clippers — probably the most benign implement humanity has ever constructed. Go figure.

And then there is the whole security screening process that discriminates against laptops and tablets, but apparently not iPads. It’s bad enough trying to figure out whether the laptop has to be removed from the bag or if shoes should be taken off. These days, I neither take out my laptop or remove my shoes unless I’m stopped and instructed to do so. Nine times out of ten I’m let through without any contest despite countless shoe-less sheep marching beside me.

According to a security expert, who asked that he not be identified because he has worked on related issues with the Department of Homeland Security, said that the laptop rule is about appearances, giving people a sense that something is being done to protect them. “Security theater,” he called it.[3]

None of us would be having these difficulties if only there was some sort of a universal standard that allowed airlines and airports to converge on their ridiculous practices. Don’t you think that a consistent experience across all airports and airlines would save everyone a lot of time and aggravation?

Terrorists Prefer Plastic Knives

I remember when at some point they started to swap out metal cutlery with crappy plastic ones as a safety precaution. I’m sure it was done as a direct result to thwart any terrorist attack or hijacking by way of a metal knife. I don’t know about you, but every plastic knife I’ve ever used had a sharper blade than the airline-provided metal equivalent.

Surely this was just a massive overreaction to the threat situation? Why else would they shortly thereafter reintroduce metal cutlery into business and first classes?[4]

I guess nobody figured that terrorists with their multi-million dollar extremist backing would be able to afford those higher-priced classes. If I was trying to hijack a plane I’d want to sit as close to the steering wheel as was physically possible. I think Business or First Class would do the job nicely.

And don’t forget about all the other perks that will enable the terrorist to thoroughly enjoy those last few hours: better food, higher baggage allowance, VIP lounge entry, priority seating and, of course, a glass of champagne upon entry (non-alcoholic, naturally). With all this luxury at their fingertips, I wonder if any of them ever got cold feet and considered backing out of the suicide mission?

But then again, if you are planning on taking over a plane with crude eating implements, wouldn’t you at least want some basic hand-to-hand combat training to fall back on in case you accidentally drop the butter-covered knife?

It almost looks as though we are stating that a blunt butter-knife is more dangerous than a skilled punch to the throat or a kick to the groin. If that’s the case, how long before passengers are put in restraints under the guise of security? After all, a hand is a lethal weapon.

The reality is that there is no standard. Countries have plunged their heads deep beneath the sands of fear and refuse to see the light. Security is not something that is achieved through ignorance, blind faith or herd mentality. Instead, we need to understand the threat, make educated decisions and put in place effective countermeasures without going overboard or abusing basic human rights, like taking away my metal butter knife.

  1. Although originally coined in the IT industry, according to some commentators, examples of political FUD are: “domino theory”, “electronic Pearl Harbor”, and “weapons of mass destruction” ^
  2. Lighters on Lufthansa: Taking one lighter is permitted if it is for personal use and if it is filled with fully absorbed liquid fuel. ^
  3. The Mystery of the Flying Laptop: http://travel.nytimes.com/2012/04/08/travel/the-mystery-of-the-flying-laptop.html?pagewanted=2 ^
  4. Air Canada has decided to allow its business-class passengers to use metal knives again, for the first time since they were banned shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States. Clifford Krauss. (2005, August 30). World Briefing | Americas: Canada: Metal Knives Return To Flights. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://query.nytimes.com/gst/…. ^


Clifford Krauss. (2005, August 30). World Briefing | Americas: Canada: Metal Knives Return To Flights. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=940CE3D91631F933A0575BC0A9639C8B63
Emirates Airlines. (2011, August 7). Emirates Airlines Dangerous Goods Table. Retrieved April 15, 2012, from http://www.emirates.com/english/images/DGR-239104.pdf
Emirates Airlines. (n.d.). Baggage | Frequently Asked Questions | Emirates. Retrieved April 15, 2012, from http://www.emirates.com/english/help/faqs/FAQDetails.aspx?faqId=239030
Lufthansa. (n.d.). Lufthansa – Dangerous goods. Retrieved April 15, 2012, from http://www.lufthansa.com/no/en/Dangerous-goods
Wikipedia contributors. (2012a, April 9). Appeal to fear. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Appeal_to_fear&oldid=483295826
Wikipedia contributors. (2012b, April 12). Fear, uncertainty and doubt. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Fear,_uncertainty_and_doubt&oldid=486582047

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8 Comments → “Why Terrorists Should Always Choose to Fly in First Class”

  1. Freddy B 12 years ago   Reply

    Well said.. reminds me when we where 3 people transporting engine parts in our hand luggage… All of us had exactely the same stuff original packed parts, 2 of us went in securety no problems the third was stopped… Anyway, he just cued in the next lane again and went in aswell… so far for security..

  2. Fiona D-Ch 12 years ago   Reply

    So true! Even UK and infact all London airports, cant seem to get their security uniform. Stansted wont let you take water for a 3 year old, but if the child is 2 and you drink it they will. Edinburgh tried to take my baby ice packs which I used for keeping baby food cool (they were not frozen at the time) when just days before Heathrow had let me through with them. Utter madness.

  3. Theo 12 years ago   Reply

    Nice work as always Shem.

    I personally feel that there shouldn’t be conformity among airline security policies. With conformity people will get used to this whole security hoopla, and feel okay with giving up ones freedom.

    Conformity, okay for McDonalds cheese burgers not for a freedom loving tourist :-)

  4. Joshua M 12 years ago   Reply

    This month’s Crypto-Gram had some similar thoughts http://www.schneier.com/crypto-gram-1204.html

  5. Monika the Cuz 12 years ago   Reply

    Spot on!! It always amused me how they’re scared you’ll pinch someone to death with nail clippers and yet they allow a lighter and 100ml of deodorant/hairspray. How much damage can be done with those two?

  6. Johan J 12 years ago   Reply

    Yup, keep ur butter knife, I will take a 750ml glass wine bottle with the bottom smashed off – must agree, they are a bunch of idiots

  7. Scott 12 years ago   Reply

    The laptop thing, as I recall, was that you once had to remove it, POWER IT ON, then you could put it back in its case. This was before they could be scanned on the belt.

    Great article!!

  8. Colin M 12 years ago   Reply

    yup – have always thought how stupid the whole thing was – mates in the security business call it the theatre of security because it doesnt really do much but the public feel better. I for one – if I was going to blow up a plane would fly first class so i would put it on my credit card and if all went according to plan I wouldnt be around to pay the bill. The thing that really annoys me is i did a fear of flying course and after that every flight I got on I told them I had done the fear of flying course and could i please sit in the cockpit – which i did on every flight which was brilliant – i saw some wonderful sights but of course now – no more

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