American Airlines gets blamed by ABC movie for 9/11 actions

By | September 10, 2006 comments here on how American Airlines is portrayed in ABC’s docudrama, The Path to 9/11. Here is what they have to say:

Here’s what the “Path to 9/11” claims American Airlines did on the morning of September 11. According to Disney/ABC, American Airlines at Boston Logan had Mohammad Atta at its ticket counter and a warning came up on the screen when he tried to check in. The AA employee called a supervisor who kind of shrugged and said, blithely, just let him through. The first employee, shocked, turned to her supervisor and said, shouldn’t we search him? The American Airlines supervisor responds, nah, just hold his luggage until he boards the plane. The scene is clearly intended to make American Airlines look negligent.

Only problem? It never happened.

Now, as the blog mentions, on the first page of the 9/11 Commission report, Mohammed Atta and Abdul Aziz al Omari arrived at the airport in Portland, Maine and checked in for a six AM flight to Boston Airport. USAirways flagged him under a prescreening system called CAPPS(Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System), which had USAirways holding his checked baggage until he was confirmed onboard.

Three members of Atta’s team who boarded American Flight 11, were selected for screening in Boston. Which meant the same thing to them as it did to Atta earlier. Considering they’d never need their checked luggage again, the system was somewhat inadequate. Aside from the fact that the security checkpoint was operated by Globe Security under contract to American Airlines, the basic part of the procedure was unchanged from today….the passenger would have his bag go through an x-ray machine and while he would go through a metal detector.

The idea at the time that an agent would call a supervisor over at all, no matter what the airline, for a CAPPS flag is not plausible. Nowadays, a flag like this would not only have the baggage held, but the passenger would be subjected to secondary screening at the TSA checkpoint.

The blogger in question is correct. This movie will be giving people the false impression that the airlines somehow dropped the ball, emphasizing American Airlines. People forget prior to 9/11 even secondary security screening at the checkpoint was limited to random explosives tests being done on bags, and security wanding and/or patting down was limited to those who tripped the metal detector.

The truth is, while you can say the airlines could have done more, they did what was mandated by government regulations. People insisted for years before 9/11 and after to this day that security measures are not enough.

The New York Times editorial section commented today that the best solution in their opinion was a ban on virtually all carry-on items, or at least limiting them to travel documents, keys, vital medications, reading materials, and such. Less through security would mean shorter lines at security, faster boarding, etc. We have already seen some of this. It would, as it has, put more of a strain on baggage handlers and screeners.

The piece, which concludes, “For now, the surest way to keep dangerous materials out of the cabin is to keep virtually all materials out of the cabin,” is, in our opinion, overkill. We have commented on our thoughts many times in the past. But we do know that the airlines will be restructuring their baggage handling systems, as will the airports. They will have to if they wish to avoid seriously displeasing passengers who are unhappy with the checked baggage process because of the problems with it.

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