Man Flies with Invalid Boarding Pass – We Question

By | July 1, 2011
Airport security machines

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We’ve been thinking about the issues with the airport check-in and security process for  a long time. We approved of the government insisting that higher standards be applied to security screening, although we remain unsure if it was necessary for this to be done by government workers. Up until February 13th, 2002, airport security in the United States was overseen by the FAA. They mandated standards fulfilled by private security firms. The cost of airport passenger security in 2001 was 700 million dollars, and in 2011, 5.05 Billion, a jump of 722%.

The argument about putting the organization responsible for airport security under the same umbrella as Customs and Border Patrol has some merit in theory, although the TSA was originally part of the DOT. But, why the TSA is not purely a regulatory body has always been a question. The TSA offered a Screening Partnership Program, which allows airports to retain private security, operating under TSA guidelines.

The airports who participate in this program score higher than TSA operated airports in terms of effectiveness, while not in terms of cost.  However, the TSA’s program is not currently permitted to expand, even though closing it would conflict with federal law.

But, what does all this have to do with Olajide Noibi? Well, a lot. Noibi boarded a Virgin America flight from New York to Los Angeles. He got through a TSA checkpoint with an expired boarding pass with someone else’s name on it and a school ID, which is not acceptable ID for a TSA checkpoint. Then, he apparently did it again a few days later, but was arrested before boarding a Delta flight to Atlanta.

So, where was the TSA? They always seem to be checking our ID when we fly, and writing things on our boarding pass. When we recently tried mobile boarding passes, they gave us a green laminated paper saying that our documents had been inspected.

But, to be fair, where is the airline? Virgin America is a fairly new airline, and we assume their systems are thus the newest possible. Most airlines nowadays use barcode scanners to scan boarding passes. If the pass isn’t for the flight in question, shouldn’t there be alerts? Alarm bells? Something?

When security lines became more inconvenient, airlines unveiled online check-in. You used to get multiple ID checks. First at the counter, then at security, and for a limited time, at the plane itself. Personally, why should we care who subjects themselves to a metal detector and possibly a patdown by security? The ID check at the checkpoint is unnecessary. The only practical reason to limit entry onto the concourse of ticketed passengers is to keep the security lines less long.

We’d rather the ID check occur at the plane. The TSA does random ID checks at the gate. David Parker Brown of Airline Reporter seems to believe that the TSA is doing a less than stellar job of things. Maybe the airline gate agents should be doing this. After all, if there is an ID check at security, is a passenger going to substitute a second ID after passing through and board a different flight, dropping off the grid? Hmm…there’s an idea for an upcoming action movie.

If the airline agents do conduct ID checks, they have a vested interest in it, or the airline does. Airlines do not, for the most part, permit tickets to be transferred. Thus, they’d want to ensure the person travelling is indeed the person whose name is on the ticket. Going back to the issue of online check-in, this is actually the first time an airline representative has actually interacted with the customer.

So, even if it may slow things down, shouldn’t ID checks at the gate be brought back as a mandatory measure? They can be done efficiently, as the gate agent is supposed to be checking boarding passes anyway, or using a scanner to do this. We now have to give our date of birth to airlines so they can have it matched against a TSA list. The government feels they need to know accurately who is on any given fight. If that is warranted, then this is necessary.

What do you think?