Intrusive security questioning for USA bound flights?

I was reading this article on Gary’s View from the Wing which raises a whole lot of interesting points.

Firstly, it’s great that the electronics ban from the Middle East to the US has been lifted.  From reports over the internet, it seems that airlines are simply swabbing devices for explosives, not an unreasonable request, then sealing them in plastic bags and then allowing passengers on flights.

This is much more sensible than having a large numbers of lithium batteries packed into aircraft holds for long periods of time.  Why? This is why.

However, what’s slightly strange, is the UK has retained the electronics ban, which they implemented in a completely different way to the US anyway.  The UK applied it to all airlines, from a different set of airports to the US.  It it still in force today.

So now that’s as clear as mud, Gary’s article hints at a whole additional set of restrictions just as some semblance of common sense has returned to personal electronic devices in the hold.

Again, some airlines do this today.  If you fly American Airlines across the pond, when you check-in (or at the gate if you check-in online and issue yourself a boarding pass), the staff there have been trained to ask you a few questions.  The purpose of your stay, how long you’re going for, who you work for, who you’re visiting etc. etc.

My view on airport security has always been a “Yes sir, no sir” philosophy of quiet resignation.  It serves no purpose, other than some quiet satisfaction, to refuse to answer their questions, other than to make life difficult for yourself.  I really don’t like it, but it’s only going to be far more painful to not play along.  That’s not to say you can’t have some fun with them.

However, airlines like British Airways, who are in a joint-business relationship with American Airlines don’t go through with any of this charade at all.  You are simply screened by Heathrow Airport Limited like every other passenger and as long as your documents are in order, allowed on the aircraft.

It appears that as soon as next week this may be implemented.

Again it will be a pointless charade if this is implemented, but one that I think may have the potential to cause distress to fellow LGBT travellers if not implemented sensitively.

Not everyone is out; not everyone is comfortable referring to their significant other as their boyfriend, their lover, their husband.  Polyamorous relationships are gaining (rightly so) new levels of acceptance and legitimacy within the community.

What happens if a particular security officer (who may or may not be from a faith group)  disagrees with one’s sexual orientation, and takes exception with your responses?

If you’re questioned separately and one of you refers to each other as a travelling with “a friend” versus “boyfriend”?

If the US starts to mandate this questioning, who is going to be validating what they’re allowed to ask?  Especially if it’s administered by EU citizens?  How is the data they’re collecting on you stored?  Who is going to be determining the right and the wrong answers to the questions?  Is that under EU or US law?  The quality control?

If this is implemented as soon as next week, how are multiple airline staff (or outside contractors), going to be trained up in such a short period of time?

Clearly there are airlines such as El Al that have been doing this for many, many years and have their multi-layered security processes down to a fine art.  However travelling with them, there’s a level of acceptance that they know what they’re doing being the global experts.

I’m not sure that a chap who lives in Hounslow and works for Securicor on minimum wage and has passed a CRB check and sat in front of PowerPoint for half a day will provide the same level of reassurance.

Lots of questions and few answers.


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