The Rocket Man
September 15, 2001 10:17 AM   Subscribe

The Rocket Man says: "I know I wouldn't get on an American airline unless it had an armed guard." Despite everything, I think it's going to be a long long time before that happens---could airlines really afford that?
posted by adrober (21 comments total)
Simple, add $5-10 to the ticket price, to cover the cost of the guard. I don't think anyone would have a problem with that.
posted by mathowie at 10:20 AM on September 15, 2001

hell, the airlines will be lucky if they can afford to fuel the planes. what good is 5-10$ more a ticket going to do when no one wants to fly?
posted by aenemated at 10:33 AM on September 15, 2001

this could have positive repercussions as regards environmental impact. 50% of all air traffic originates in the us.
unfortunately, air fuel is not taxed at the same rate as 'gas', it is taxed at a far lower rate.

however, as i am sure the airlines will remind us - it is still the 'safest' way to travel.

on a personal level, if i *had* to take a flight, the events of last week would not feature in my decision for a carrier.
posted by asok at 10:47 AM on September 15, 2001

The airlines will be lucky if they are still in business a month from now.
posted by zerotype at 12:10 PM on September 15, 2001

The events of the last week haven't shaken my confidence in the least with regards to air travel. In fact, tomorrow night, I'll be flying from Boston to Germany. I am not afraid.

Look, there's a better likelihood of me getting hit as I cross the street every day and yet, somehow, I muster up the courage to get across the street. The odds are very remote that I'll be on a plane that will suffer a horrible fate. Is it possible? Sure. Can I or should I dramatically change my lifestyle because of terrorist attacks? No. The odds still remain very remote that they'll directly affect me. Ever. Yes, I should absolutely be aware and be cautious as I travel and I shouldn't go out of my way to place myself in danger. But, I still have every confidence in air travel as a whole.
posted by warhol at 12:26 PM on September 15, 2001

An armed guard would not be necessary, if a means could be devised to essentially "vault" the pilots inside the cockpit from the time they enter until the time they land.

In any case, anyone who would not fly after the events of Tuesday need to realize that this is almost completely unlikely to happen again - at least, for a long, long time.
posted by at 12:29 PM on September 15, 2001

Elton John has the luxury of being able to charter his planes, so he needn't worry. As for the rest of us: well, fear is a weapon, and it can be fought. There are structures in place to improve air security; they were already implemented by the FAA for international travel. So, I'd imagine that the no-frills end of domestic air travel -- the AirTrans and SouthWests -- will suffer very badly, and the bigger carriers will survive.

In short, air travel will step back a couple of decades.
posted by holgate at 12:35 PM on September 15, 2001

airlines don't need to afford the cost of guards: the government is putting (and has been) armed US marshals on board planes. unless of course they have to pay to have them on board, which I don't think is the case.
posted by rob at 12:42 PM on September 15, 2001

My understanding from a friend of mine in the Special Forces is that the Israeli's airline has two "shooters" (his words) on each plane, one in the front and one in the back. Frankly, I've never heard of the hijacking of an Israeli jet, or the bombing of one. Additionally, security is so tight it takes at least two hours to get boarded. Check-in sometimes includes guards cutting open the heel of your shoe to check to see if anything is inside of it, and then (thank you very much) gluing it back together for you.
posted by MeadowLark at 12:50 PM on September 15, 2001

Having an armed guard on any public airliner seems like a tragedy in the making. By placing an armed guard (whether a US Marshal or a US Airways hire), we are placing a loaded weapon within a cabin of hundreds of civilians. The possibilities for this guard being overpowered or forced into surrendering his weapon are numerous, and seem to be cause enough to negate the entire idea.

Personally, I like the idea of a sealed cockpit, completely inaccessible during flight.
posted by mlaaker at 1:12 PM on September 15, 2001

Why not recruit a volunteer corps of air marshalls? Find current or former military and law enforcement personnel who would be willing to go through the proper training and each handle a few flights a year? You could give them unlimited free travel, tax breaks, life insurance, etc. I know that I can't be the first person to have thought of this.
posted by hipstertrash at 1:49 PM on September 15, 2001

Being careful, and even a tad paranoid is understandable, but the idea of avoiding air flight strikes me as crossing the line to hysterical. Even this past Tuesday, how many flights took off in the US between 7 and 9 am. The odds of getting on one of the 4 involved were pretty slim. I've got a flight on this coming Thursday booked, and see no reason not to take it.
posted by fpatrick at 2:04 PM on September 15, 2001

While we are at it-let's make sure we screen the air marshals real well.
posted by bunnyfire at 4:05 PM on September 15, 2001

mlaaker: I think any potential tragedies could be averted by the simple expedient of having marshals wearing plainclothes and boarding with regular passengers. If you are a hijacker and you don't know who has the gun, but you know someone does, your strategic options for successfully completing your mission (whether it is using the plane as a weapon or just as a bargaining tool) become very limited.
posted by kindall at 4:23 PM on September 15, 2001

What difference would that make?

It would prevent the terrorists from seizing control of the aircraft and ramming it into a large building, perhaps? You know, like what happened Tuesday?
posted by kindall at 7:23 PM on September 15, 2001

"anyone who would not fly after the events of Tuesday need to realize that this is almost completely unlikely to happen again."

True enough, but for already-nervous airplane passengers like myself, there are only so many times I can see that second WTC crash without it breaking any will I had to get on another airplane. Hijacking, mechanical failure, whatever.. I'm not sure if I'll be flying again.
posted by jess at 8:14 PM on September 15, 2001

It's true, El Al (the Isralei airline) has between 2 and 4 armed security personel on each flight (in street clothes.) I don't know how much the airlines would care about this. We have American paying Eagle pilots $13000-$15000 per year. What are they going to get? A mall rent-a-cop? Certainally not a trained security specialist on each flight. Seems like it would be a false sense of security. And there's no guarantee a guard could stop a few highly trained people bent on taking him down
posted by sixdifferentways at 9:24 PM on September 15, 2001

So arm the pilots! We're already trusting them with the controls of a passenger jet; isn't it reasonable to trust the flight deck crew with sidearms?
posted by nicwolff at 11:56 PM on September 15, 2001

If you want to impress me come up with a solution that covers both hijacking and suicide.

Garden-variety hijackings don't result in thousands of fatalities. According to sources I've found on the Web, the total death toll from all hijackings since 1970 is about a tenth of the number of people still missing (and almost certainly dead) in New York City, not even counting confirmed deaths in NYC or at the Pentagon or in Pennsylvania. The most that have ever died in a single hijacking incident prior to 9/11 seems to be 132, with most incidents leading to far fewer fatalites -- the last six such incidents resulted in one passenger fatality. (Source)

Yeah, I want to prevent planes being used as weapons in suicide attacks first and foremost, because that is currently the primary threat!
posted by kindall at 12:48 AM on September 16, 2001

The primary threat would be the one more likely to happen to you.

No, the primary threat is the one more likely to kill the most people. Duh.
posted by kindall at 10:05 AM on September 16, 2001

I am planning to avoid air travel, if I can manage it. I'm sure air travel is completely safe, and will be even safer once the political aftershocks have finished, but that's not what bothers me. I'm afraid of the security measures themselves: retinal scans, databases, full-body X-rays, face-matching, whatever. I don't want to have my information run through half a dozen databases in order to prove that I don't even look like a terrorist before I can fly somewhere.

It would be only too easy to land on someone's list of "suspected dangerous people". It'd be completely unprecedented for the general public to be able to query these databases, or to be able to lodge complaints against them if errors are found. That is simply not going to happen.

So we're heading toward a situation where, if somebody in the FBI decides they don't like you (maybe you lobbied for a marijuana-legalisation initiative, maybe you wrote the next DeCSS or Gnutella, maybe you got arrested for chaining yourself to a sidewalk at some protest), you can expect to be treated with suspicion, possibly detained, possibly searched in detail, every time you try to fly on a plane for the rest of your life.

This is not an institution I want to have anything to do with.

posted by Mars Saxman at 11:24 AM on September 16, 2001

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