Airport security

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – airport security should be relaxed.

Flying back from Dublin recently, we arrived at Dublin airport and joined the queue to pass through to the departures lounge – a queue that would take us 40 minutes to get through. That is really long and irritating. But often, these queues can be even longer (though in fairness, often shorter too).

Of course you can come back with “but you can’t put a price on human life”, but this is simply nieve and we all know you really can. For example, a million people a year die on the roads and we could reduce this by setting the speed limit to 20 miles per hour on every road everywhere. But this would be too inconvenient, we would rather let people die is the harsh truth.

So, putting emotional arguments aside, why should we relax airport security?

Well, first off, lets remember why we shouldn’t – if we did, more terrorists would get through with more bombs, and people would die. That is a good reason for airport security!

But there has to be a trade off between the lengths taken and the success. So my question is, have we got the levels quite right. I would argue that perhaps we have not.

Firstly, there is a time cost. 40 minutes for everyone passing through an airport is a long time. Given that the average person has around 3,000,000 (3 million) hours left on this Earth, that means that for every 6 million people that pass through airport security, we’ve essentially wasted a human life.

It isn’t as simple as time vs life as the emotional argument would have you belief – when it comes down to it, length queues in airport security take away small parts of people’s lives – and these quickly add up to entire lives.

London’s airports see 134,000,000 people pass through it each year. Based on our previous maths that is 22 people’s lives per year spent on airport security. That is just one city, albeit the busiest in the world in terms of air passengers – internationally, we’re losing hundreds of lives per year.

So terrorists would have to kill everyone on board a jumbo jet (or several smaller planes) at least once a year to make the time we spend on airport security cost effective.

Secondly, we have to wonder how effective these security checks are. Most terrorist plots are stopped by homeland security forces in the planning stage, airport security stops very few – indeed, security expert Bruce Schneier argues that a lot of the security added in recent years does absolutely nothing, and is merely a “theater” designed to make us feel safer. Is that the kind of system that saves a jumbo jet full of people, every year?

It is also arguable that it simply doesn’t work – even in a post 9/11 world we still have the shoe bomber and the printer cartridge bombs – we’re more paranoid than ever before and people are still getting bombs on our planes.

Finally, it is also worth asking what ideological cost we are paying for these security checks.

We have to remember that the aim of a terrorist isn’t to blow up an aeroplane – that is merely a means to an end, and the end is, as is suggested by their name, causing terror.

Now, I don’t know about you, but when we’re all too scared to let a small child take a bottle of water onto a plane, in my book that suggests that we’re pretty fucking terrified.

Like many of you, I’m sick and tired of hipsters wearing “keep calm and…” t-shirts. But what is worse is that the whole meaning of them has been lost. As you may well know, the original meme comes from British posters that said “keep calm and carry on” to tell the public what to do during the Second World War.

That is what London does best – when the terrorists struck on 7-7 and blow up our trains and our buses, what did Londoners do? They stuck two fingers up at the terrorists, got right back on those buses and showed them that we were not going to be scared of them.

Air transport however, has taken no such approach. As news stories about parents forced to drink baby milk to show it wasn’t actually liquid explosive have shown, there is literally no substance that we cannot be scared of.

Seems a high price to me.

Luckily, of course, you can buy a bottle of water once you have passed through security, for twice the price. But that is a different blog post.

So the situation is this.

In order to stop terrorists we’ve banned every single substance we can think of that could possibly be used as an explosive, even though they’re still getting explosives onto the planes and we’re using up hundreds of people’s lives a year in a line of defense which may or may not be saving any lives.

Maybe it is time that we, at least reviewed, the situation.



Don't have time to check my blog? Get a weekly email with all the new posts. This is my personal blog, so obviously it is 100% spam free.


Tags: , , , ,

This entry was posted on Saturday, September 1st, 2012 at 11:25 am and is filed under Religion & Politics, Thoughts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.