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Airline Evildoer
February 28, 2003 8:56 AM   Subscribe

Purchasing an one-way airplane ticket with cash May trigger airport security alert on you. No credit card ? Bad Guy ! Credit Card ? Good guy ! Unofficially sponsored by VISA or Amex ?
posted by elpapacito (56 comments total)

 
What I'd like to know is what happens when you use a debit card to pay for your tickets...
posted by frallyth at 9:05 AM on February 28, 2003


The vast majority of passengers will be rated green and won't be subjected to anything more than normal checks, while yellow will get extra screening and red won't fly.

So the red rating means: "this guy is soooo dangerous that even if we strip/cavity search him, interrogate him and run 5 background checks he still might crash the plane into a tall building, just using his bare hands/telepathic mind control powers".
posted by signal at 9:07 AM on February 28, 2003


Nothing at all happens when you use a debit card to pay. It's treated just like a credit card.

Incidentally, what was really fun was traveling back and forth from Atlanta to Washington DC about eight times in October-December 2001, each time on a one-way ticket bought the day before or the day of travel, traveling solo (and I'm a guy in my mid-20s.) I got interrogated, searched, etc. like you wouldn't believe...and the best part was that they kept telling me it was completely random! (I don't mind the security, but don't feed me a line.)
posted by Vidiot at 9:20 AM on February 28, 2003


"This system threatens to create a permanent blacklisted underclass of Americans who cannot travel freely"

Or it could do something we should have been doing all along - Making an effort to keep terrorists off what we now recognize as guided missiles waiting for a terrorist.

Flying on commercial airlines isn't a civil liberty as far as I'm concerned. As someone who flies regularly, I've been amazed and concerned that we don't do this already.

I say this as someone who marched in protest of the Bush/Ashcroft assault on our civil liberties. I think "Homeland Security ™" and the Patriot Act go way too far in abusing our rights to privacy, due process, and freedom from unreasonable searches. I think Ashcroft will do everything he can get away with to gut the Bill Of Rights.

But some things are important enough to ratchet back on the rhetoric. This is one of them.
posted by y6y6y6 at 9:26 AM on February 28, 2003


i was on a flight recently where a bunch of security people showed up just as we were boarding, zeroed in on this one dude (caucasian, mid-thirties, businessman-looking) and really gave him a thorough going-over. they didn't even look at anyone else in the queue ... i can only imagine the system flagged something in his travel profile.

they were completely polite about it, and the fellow being inspected was affable, and everyone else seemed indifferent. i can live with that.
posted by donkeyschlong at 9:30 AM on February 28, 2003


y6, I might consider to begin to agree with you if these measuyres had even remotest chance of succeeding. But this plan would not have prevented 9/11, wouldn't have kept Richard Reed from getting on a plane with a bomb, and won't work in the future.

Even if this plan worked perfectly as advertised, a single act of indentity theft compromises it. That makes the plan worse than useless - it actaully decreases security.
posted by Jos Bleau at 9:38 AM on February 28, 2003


Nothing at all happens when you use a debit card to pay. It's treated just like a credit card.

I used to think that too. Yesterday an airline carrier refused to accept my bank's debit/credit card to pay for a flight and insisted I use a national credit card only. I talked to customer support personel but no one could give me a reason, just that it was the rule. I've flown on numerous other carriers for the past 5 years on a bank debit/credit card without a problem.
posted by mathowie at 9:42 AM on February 28, 2003


Really? whoa...it's never given me a problem yet.

What worries me is the "red"="don't fly" part of the new rules. If something in my file is triggering red flags to the point of me not being allowed to travel (wouldn't this violate conditions of carriage rules? I suppose those will have to be re-written as well), I sure as hell would want to know what it is -- and the way I read the story, the airlines wouldn't tell me.
posted by Vidiot at 9:46 AM on February 28, 2003


o canada!
posted by quonsar at 9:51 AM on February 28, 2003


Fuck. I'm flying tomorrow, on a one-way ticket. With an infant, so you just know they're going to hassle me. It's a law of nature.
posted by padraigin at 9:53 AM on February 28, 2003


" But this plan would not have prevented 9/11"

Yes, it would have. Most of the terrorists were on lists at CIA, FBI and INS. Combined with the other things we've implemented for airlines they never would have made it on the plane.

It would have prevented it and will make it harder for terrorists to use airliners in the future.
posted by y6y6y6 at 9:54 AM on February 28, 2003


Well I hate to say it but this is just freakin common sense. I'd rather the airport security was doing it's background checking and screening based on facts than on race.

Seriously would you be very trusting of someone who buys a one way airline ticket with cash carrying no luggage?

Seems like a good idea to check that guy out rather than giving all the "Arab looking" people the third degree all the time.

And on preview what Vidiot said. I'd be more concerned about being blocked due to something you didn't have a chance to explain or correct (after the fact most likely).
posted by aaronscool at 9:55 AM on February 28, 2003


I love the way the word Arab isn't mentioned here. I am deeply suspicious that the promise, "ensuring law-abiding citizens aren't given unnecessary scrutiny," won't apply to, say, Syrian-Americans who have been abiding the laws for decades as U.S. citizens. signal was quite right about the preposterousness of the red=can't fly category. Passengers are already being profiled, and some of the incidents at the Canadian border have made law-abiding North Americans of foreign birth feel like it's not 100% safe to engage in travel outside of their adopted country.

The basic question is: who are the blacklisted going to be? No one in their right mind thinks it'll just be terrorists & criminals on that list. And y6y6y6 is not right about travel on a public accommodation being something where you can discriminate ("not a civil liberty," etc.) on the basis of shaky suspicions and profiles. In the U.S., you do not have the right to run a business (and refuse services) on such a basis!

Basically, if the person is "red" (needs to be denied travel), damn it, the justice system ought to be able to apprehend him on criminal charges (& have judicial warrant for a thorough investigation)!
posted by Zurishaddai at 10:04 AM on February 28, 2003


sadly, one of the unavoidable consequences of 9-11 is higher and more intrusive airport security (although I doubt that the next Al Qaeda big strike -- "big" as in 9-11 magnitude -- will come from hijacked planes)
problem is, right now security is highly intrusive, very unpleasant AND ineffective. we need real professionals, and many more explosive scanners for luggage than we have now (one Al Qaeda asshole on board with a small remote control + explosive in his badly screened checked luggage = boom), many more crago screeners. of course, there's no funding for those lame projects.
and the single male traveler/one-way ticket/last minute purchase/cash purchase trigger actually makes sense (let's not even get into racial profiling, topic discussed to the death here on MeFi since 9-11)

With an infant, so you just know they're going to hassle me.
why? are they worried about anthrax hidden in the baby's diaper?
posted by matteo at 10:05 AM on February 28, 2003


Nope, y6, the ringleaders used phony ID's they obtained legally in North Carolina, and since they knew the details of the CAPPS profiling system, the rest avoided it by not-checking luggage.

First, the system assumes that once somene has 'green' status they can be trusted. What if a 'green' person goes bad, so to speak?

Next, what's to keep the next bunch of bad guys from stealing the ID's of green-level trusted fliers who look like them and using that?

Or how about true believers who have spent years establishing green-level status and who then voluntarily hand over their ID's to bad guys - that's absolutely un-cachable in this system.

The FBI decided that their counter-espionage people were 'trusted' and so they didn't bother to check them up on them via polygraphs and IRS audits. How'd that work out for them?
posted by Jos Bleau at 10:08 AM on February 28, 2003


>o canada!

We've got lists too quonsar. As a computer consultant who occasionally flies to the US to speak at conferences, my recent CSIS "involvement" has me worried.
posted by jkaczor at 10:16 AM on February 28, 2003


With these rules Ted Stryker would never have been let on that plane and hundreds of people would have died!
posted by linux at 10:17 AM on February 28, 2003


Seriously would you be very trusting of someone who buys a one way airline ticket with cash carrying no luggage?

Well, let's see... I use cash whenever possible. I never check luggage - if it doesn't fit in a carry-on, I don't need it. And I do hope, before too many more years, to embark on a year-long, round-the-world series of one-way flights. So if long-term travellers who don't trust banks are suddenly a terrorist threat, well...
posted by Mars Saxman at 10:26 AM on February 28, 2003


i don't think that the "single male traveler/one-way ticket trigger" will work anymore. 2 reasons - 1. after all of the hoopla of it being a trigger, only an idiot terrorist would attempt it again - 2. actually, it's often cheaper to purchase a round trip ticket vs one way anyway
posted by harja at 10:27 AM on February 28, 2003


Flying on commercial airlines isn't a civil liberty as far as I'm concerned. As someone who flies regularly, I've been amazed and concerned that we don't do this already.

Actually, I think that one can make an argument that protecting freedom to travel is important to democracy. Not flying on commercial airlines also means no travel overseas. But the single-ticket, cash, no or minimal luggage profile has long been used with RICO to profile suspected drug dealers as well.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:29 AM on February 28, 2003


Oh no, linux, not MACHO GRANDE!

Sadly, I think the most apt quote form the movie is:

Elaine's voice on intercom to passengers -
"There's no reason to become alarmed, and we hope you'll enjoy the rest of your flight. By the way, is there anyone on board who knows how to fly a plane?"

Substitute Tom Ridge for her, and 'run airline security' for 'fly a plane' and there you have it. Sadly.
posted by Jos Bleau at 10:30 AM on February 28, 2003


Only one thing for it: Everybody Flies Naked.

My thought is, wasn't the 9-11 effort kind of a one trick pony? It's probably always going to possible to somehow bring down an airplane, but I don't think it's going to go very well if you try and hijack a plane with a box cutter and divert it at this point. Everybody on that plane is going assume you're not in it for the money and jump your ass.
posted by Leonard at 10:33 AM on February 28, 2003


Oh, and BTW, the 9/11 hijackers

(A) purchased round trip tickets

(B) weeks in advance

(C) in both first class and coach

(D) which they paid for with a credit cards and

(E) checked luggage.

In fact, some of the most important evidence we have come from the luggage of one of the leaders because it was put on the wrong flight that day, and thus wasn't destroyed in the attacks.
posted by Jos Bleau at 10:35 AM on February 28, 2003


Actually, I think that one can make an argument that protecting freedom to travel is important to democracy.

As is freedom to not explode while doing it.

I just don't see a problem with any of this. If you buy a one way ticket with cash there's a good chance you have something to hide and security should take note. If you walk into a bank with sunglasses on the security guard will probably look at you twice as well.
posted by bondcliff at 10:35 AM on February 28, 2003


"In the U.S., you do not have the right to run a business (and refuse services) on such a basis!"

Of course you do. Are you seriously saying the private (not public as you mistakenly say) businesses don't have the right to refuse service if they feel someone may be a threat to other customers?
posted by y6y6y6 at 10:36 AM on February 28, 2003


Only one thing for it: Everybody Flies Naked.

that wipes out all demand for inflight meals when I'm on the plane, then...

but good point, Leonard -- they're gonna try something else next time.
posted by Vidiot at 10:38 AM on February 28, 2003


And why do people think just because it wouldn't have prevented 9/11 it's useless?

9/11 proved that if someone is so determined they will actually DIE in an effort to attack us, there is NOTHING that we can do to make ourselves 100% safe.

Does that mean we shouldn't attempt to prevent someone from attacking us in a less sophisticated manner? Perhaps these efforts will keep Joe Crazyman from taking out 200 people during a suicide attempt.
posted by bondcliff at 10:41 AM on February 28, 2003


"Perhaps these efforts will keep Joe Crazyman from taking out 200 people during a suicide attempt."

We had security good enouht to do that before 9/11, which is why that hasn't succeeded for decades, and as leonard points out above, passengers who actively resist hijackings will take care of people who do try that.

And most importantly, there's nothing in the new plan that will keep Joe Crazyman off the plane if he's already got green status!
posted by Jos Bleau at 10:48 AM on February 28, 2003


Below the picture, Delta Air Lines will try the plan at three airports beginning next month.
So this is voluntary as of now? And who is forcing this the government on the airports who then force it on the airlines? Maybe the airlines should stand up and say no.

It can't help business or could it? I'm seeing a bunch of smaller airlines taking over when the bigger ones fold, like American.

The airlines industry sucks of late and their friendly way to fly is now by an alternative route.

Maybe this is the end of the aero industry as we know it privatized.
posted by thomcatspike at 10:52 AM on February 28, 2003


Are you seriously saying the private (not public as you mistakenly say) businesses don't have the right to refuse service if they feel someone may be a threat to other customers?

Yes, I am. The key here is "if they feel someone may be..." You seem to acknowledge that there has to be a reason. Well, the reason has to be reasonable, and (maybe I am paranoid, but) I stick to my suspicion that this system will not be content to use rationally and legally defensible criteria. Specifically, if you are discriminating against law-abiding people based on national origin, it's not legal. (You may not feel that this will happen. If it doesn't, I don't claim what I say applies.)

P.S. I didn't call the businesses public. I called them public accommodations, which is a legal term I believe I've correctly applied. Maybe someone can correct me. (Under federal law, the most obvious cases where businesses offering their services to the public are prohibited from discrimination in choosing their customers are the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. I feel pretty sure national origin is a basis of discrimination that any private business specializing in interstate travel cannot get away with.) Google finds this PDF outolining pretty much the very legal argument/case I am suggesting.
posted by Zurishaddai at 11:00 AM on February 28, 2003


Sorry, here is the correct link to the argument (from Council on American-Islamic Relations) covering cases of discriminating in areas like air travel based on nationality, etc.
posted by Zurishaddai at 11:03 AM on February 28, 2003


Flying naked is not a solution. It takes no imagination at all to conceive of some suicide bomber packing his rectal cavity with C4 explosive. Unless we're all going to fly naked and receive a MRI scan before boarding, there's simply no way to guarantee safety.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:16 AM on February 28, 2003


Flying naked is not a solution

oh, thank goodness. i thought for sure that idea would be officially adopted.
posted by harja at 11:24 AM on February 28, 2003


"Ammendment IX: The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."

Everyone seems to forget that one. Yes indeed, I *do* have a right to travel.
posted by Cerebus at 11:38 AM on February 28, 2003


there's simply no way to guarantee safety.

It's been that was since the Wright brothers and earlier.
posted by thomcatspike at 11:47 AM on February 28, 2003


"If you buy a one way ticket with cash there's a good chance you have something to hide"

Unless you've got numbers to prove this, it's simply conventional archair quarterbacking gone wrong. A more likely interpretation might be: if you buy a one way ticket with cash, there's a good chance you've bought a one way ticket with cash.

Everything else is interpretation on your part, based on your own biases and prejudices. The only reason I don't fly like this is that I simply cannot afford it. Otherwise, I would do so out of a general sense of resentment about the increasing tendency of everyone to track everything.

I don't like this trend for philosophical reasons, not because I'm a terrorist.
posted by Irontom at 11:47 AM on February 28, 2003


"cases of discriminating in areas like air travel based on nationality, etc."

If the system refuses to provide service to people based solely on their race, then that is actionable and law suits will no doubt be brought. Just like they are now. As they should. I don't see where the proposed plan would change anything where that is concerned.
posted by y6y6y6 at 11:49 AM on February 28, 2003


Yes indeed, I *do* have a right to travel.
You have the right to travel.
You have the right to move from one place to another.
You do not, however, have the right to step onto any airplane you so choose in order to get there.
posted by 4easypayments at 11:53 AM on February 28, 2003


If you buy a one way ticket with cash there's a good chance you have something to hide and security should take note.

Something to hide, perhaps. Or maybe you were on vacation and had your purse stolen which contained all of your credit cards and your plane ticket (but thankfully not your driver's license or you'd be flat out stranded forever) so you had some cash wired to you and now you're buying a ticket to get home. Or you don't have credit cards and you're flying last-minute to a family funeral but know you can hitch a ride home for free with Uncle Steve. Or you're using the cash your buddy gave him for helping him drive the truck while he moved across country to buy a ticket to get back home...

In short, there a million legitimate reasons why someone would want a one-way ticket purchased with cash and even some which would make it completely reasonable that the person in question have only carry on baggage. A personal preference or decision to travel in this fashion isn't necessarily suspect by any stretch of the imagination.
posted by Dreama at 12:07 PM on February 28, 2003


If you buy a one way ticket with cash there's a good chance you have something to hide and security should take note.

Um, in a word, no. Living in a cash-centric society, I ditched my credit cards a long time ago (also becasue paying off US dollars with the old Italian Lire was a financial nightmare.) Just because plastic is prolific in the USA doesn't mean the rest of the world is the same.

Also, when I travel for pleasure, I backpack. I prefer to have the loosest itinerary possible (read: one way ticket) and anything I cannot fit into my alotted two carry-ons is unneccessary weight.

So with no plastic, no checked luggage, and no return ticket, I guess my next visit back to the States should prove interesting. Body cavity search ahoy!
posted by romakimmy at 12:12 PM on February 28, 2003


"This system threatens to create a permanent blacklisted underclass of Americans who cannot travel freely"

Speaking of blacklists...
posted by homunculus at 12:54 PM on February 28, 2003


It seems to me profiling is not as useful as one may think. As Jos Bleau correctly points out, it's very easy to take advantage of holes in such a security system.

Eventually what could really endanger passengers isn't the "evil" traveler himself, but the methods he/she is going to use to deliver damage.

It seems like passengers haven't understood that to keep the security costs low, they'll need to wait much more time in line then before because double and triple checking takes a lot of time, but it also seems like that, to some people, time is such an imperative it's worth risking their lifes. Slaves of the "need to rush".

Obviously airlines aren't happy about delays because it's another hit to their profitability and they'd rather risk lifes then lose profits. This is unacceptable.

Another interesting fact is that airplane terrorism isn't a thing of 2001 at all, it was invented when somebody realized it's sooo easy to jump on a plane and take control of some hundred lifes. Authorities /airlines had many many years of experience on the subject, yet the results are disappointing at best, and don't give me the old statistic "only x in 100000000 planes were hijacked" and other nonsense : that only makes business sense, doesn't make any security sense.
posted by elpapacito at 1:11 PM on February 28, 2003


"If you buy a one way ticket with cash there's a good chance you have something to hide"

I beg to differ. I've flown that way a number of times, for business and for personal reasons. Once, I found myself on a road trip with an associate who turned out to be not only abusive, but dangerous. I called a cab from a roadside cafe, went to the airport, whipped out some cash and bought a ticket home. The only thing I had to hide were the bruises from where Sparky the WonderBoy tried to force his attentions upon me.

I think it's absurd to suggest that credit ratings can be used as a barometer of security. It's more ridiculous that nobody will admit who has access to these databases, how you can change errors, and that the database entry will last for 50 years. This whole thing reeks of just one more method of tracking people, providing a false sense of security, while destroying the rights of privacy and the ability to challenge your accusers.

No sir. Don't like it. Don't like it a bit.
posted by dejah420 at 1:26 PM on February 28, 2003


"If you buy a one way ticket with cash there's a good chance you have something to hide"

It would not bother me so much if it only meant running my bags through the x-ray twice. I do all my purchases by cash or check (if I don't have the money for a small purchase in the bank I should not be spending it.) Last month, I needed to make an emergency cross-country trip to help out the inlaws with surgery. With no idea if it would take one week or two I am baffled as to how I am supposed to buy round trip in advance (I ended up driving that time.)

I find it amusing that the most trustworthy method of payment (cash up front) arrouses so much concern.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:27 PM on February 28, 2003


The easiest way to hack profiling is to profile the profiling system. This can be accomplished simply by dry-running operatives through the system to see who gets flagged and who doesn't; then, when it's time to act, have the *known unflagged operatives* do the deed.
posted by Cerebus at 3:06 PM on February 28, 2003


Civil Liberties After 9/11
posted by homunculus at 3:27 PM on February 28, 2003


Oops, meant to add "on this week's NOW."
posted by homunculus at 3:31 PM on February 28, 2003


So, if I'm a terrorist, all I need to do is buy a roundtrip ticket? I don't get this.
posted by ParisParamus at 3:42 PM on February 28, 2003


Some people have talked about the so-called carnival booth algorithm to defeat any screening system. Suppose you have a pool of potential terrorists. You send them all out on a bunch of flights, and see who gets flagged, and under what circumstances. You find the people and circumstances that don't get flagged, and you pick them to be the terrorists. As far as I can tell, there's virtually no way around this. If a group of terrorists does a few dry runs before the real thing and they make it through, they can be pretty sure that they will make it through the next time.
posted by cameldrv at 4:13 PM on February 28, 2003


about dry-runs:

Richard Reid, the Paris-Miami flight shoe-bomber, actually did at least two dry-runs (once, of all airlines, on a ElAl flight -- where he spent the flight seated next to an incognito Israeli security guy ready to snap Reid's neck at the first suspicious move)
after the dry-runs, he tried to blow up the plane and almost accomplished it
posted by matteo at 4:51 PM on February 28, 2003


Say, regarding body cavity searches... if one were to hide some sort of nasty finger-chomping trap up their rectum, would there be any sort of liability for when the rent-a-cop loses his finger?

I should think the beating afterward would be pretty severe, though.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:11 PM on February 28, 2003


although only slightly off topic...

i saw this link on fark about a canadian woman who was deported to india because the ins officials thought her canadian passport was fake. no call to her consul, just jail or india.

i'm hoping the "high-tech equipment" the ins uses will not be part of this system.
posted by birdherder at 6:18 PM on February 28, 2003


This has been true for a long time. Last time I bought a one way ticket with cash was in 98, and I was searched three times.
posted by Nothing at 6:33 PM on February 28, 2003


If you buy a one way ticket with cash there's a good chance you have something to hide and security should take note.

I've done that twice already in 2003, and the only danger I present is a potential for snoring.

That being said, I'm not against profiling because it has a strong tendency to inconvenience me. I'm against it because profiling doesn't work. A system such as this allows the potential group of terrorists to know what each individual's likelihood of being searched is, and to adjust their plans so as to maximize the likelihood that they can defeat airline security.
posted by mosch at 7:44 PM on February 28, 2003


mosch: publicizing the criteria by which you profile makes it possible for terrorists to adjust their plans - having criteria doesn't.

Even so, profiling of this nature is not useless: terrorists and criminals don't use cash because it's easier, but rather because it leaves a lot less of a record and makes it harder for automated monitoring systems to tip off the authorities in advance. So now it's a tradeoff - have a better chance of getting through the airport or a better chance of not having your plot detected before it gets off the ground.

Now you could certainly argue that the invasion of privacy and potential for abuse in such a system might outweigh any increased safety it brings about, but you can't argue that it's useless.
posted by jaek at 8:16 PM on February 28, 2003


Taking these arguments for search and prohibition from flights to their logical extreme, I find myself worried that if I end up on the 'yellow' or 'red' list (perhaps by linking to a deviant website from my blog or because I protested against Gulf War I) there are a number of entities that might want to keep me out 'for the safety of our other guests.' What is to stop an Amusement park or local Mall from requiring photo id to be checked against the list for safety reasons. Will local utilities or businesses stop providing service to the list because it is too dangerous to send an employee to a residence of a potential terrorist? Can I never order from Dominos again?
posted by IndigoSkye at 11:31 PM on February 28, 2003


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