On Saurday August 1, I flew for the first time since September 11th. I was stunned by the manner with which my traveling companion was treated during the security process at Logan.
While his shoes were being searched, another security officer absconded with his bag, and somewhere during this process his glasses were removed. He was left shoeless, bagless, and blind. Airport security then searched his bag while he could not supervise the process. When we both complained, we were told to stop “making a scene” or we wouldn’t be allowed on the plane. At that point, other passengers came up to us and offered to back us up if we insisted on seeing a manager (which should tell you how obviously poorly we were being treated). Supervisors on the scene refused to tell us their names so we could complain properly. We were running so late that we decided just to run for our gate.
Unfortunately, our experience for the morning was not yet finished. US Airways security personnel at the gate also pulled my companion out of line, again removed his shoes and rifled through his bag. At this point, he inquired why his bag was being searched again, and no one answered. He then demanded an explanation. Instead of answering, the security woman took away his boarding pass, told him he would not be flying that day, AND CALLED THE STATE POLICE.
The state policeman who came over gave us three different answers to the question, “Why am I being searched?” First he said it was random. Then he told us it was because of the “scene” at the first checkpoint. Then he told us the first checkpoint had called ahead to the gate and requested another search. I have no idea which of these explanations is true, but the last option sounds like harassment (not security) to me. We were eventually allowed to board the flight, after being made to endure a lecture from security personnel about how our complaints made other passengers nervous.
Coming home the following day, our experience in LaGuardia was entirely different. Security personnel there were quick but careful, and above all, courteous. Nothing was searched without permission, and we returned without incident.
I recognize the need for enhanced security in the wake of Sept 11. However, I also think I have the right to know why my things or my person is being searched (even if the answer is that it is random). I also think I should be able to ask questions–asking “where are you taking my bag” does not make me a terrorist, it merely shows my concern for my property. Security can be conducted with courtesy.
On August 3, NPR reported that many security personnel at Logan had been let go, having failed to pass the required tests to become federal employees. And a few days after that, US Airways declared bankruptcy. In my more charitable moments, I wonder if the way we were treated was a result of substantial job anxiety…I look forward to seeing if the properly trained and credentialed federal workers can do better.