August 29, 2002
9:58 AM   Subscribe

If you've ever flown commercially in the past 16 years, you had to answer two questions about your luggage before receiving your boarding pass. Starting today, they are no longer required since they "never prevented a bombing or hijacking."
posted by jaden (20 comments total)
Cool. Common sense surfaces.
posted by Witty at 10:09 AM on August 29, 2002

Thank goodness. Now I won't have to restrain myself from making some flip, stupid comment about the swarthy Arab guy who handed me this oil-stained, ticking box to take to his cousin in Denver, all the while muttering "Death to America."

People are, sadly, security-conscious enough now to object when someone tries stuff like this. (I believe those questions were put into place after some sort of incident -- bombing or attempted bombing, I think -- in the '70s.)
posted by Vidiot at 10:18 AM on August 29, 2002

Stand up comedians across the country are crying in their frosted flakes.
posted by cell divide at 10:20 AM on August 29, 2002

NPR has been repeating this story like a mantra...
posted by Shane at 10:30 AM on August 29, 2002

(I believe those questions were put into place after some sort of incident -- bombing or attempted bombing, I think -- in the '70s.)

I always thought those questions were aimed more at the drug mules.
posted by HTuttle at 10:37 AM on August 29, 2002

That's a shame, I always enjoyed the George Carlin bit about it.
posted by Kellydamnit at 10:38 AM on August 29, 2002

I always thought those questions closed potential loopholes. I.e. "I have no idea what *that* is doing in *my* bag". Of course, you can always add a line to the small type that says "passengers will be responsible for the contents of their luggage". It took 16 years to think of that one.
posted by magullo at 10:43 AM on August 29, 2002

I'm glad their gone. I would always get nervous and flubbed the answers up.
posted by corpse at 10:51 AM on August 29, 2002

Good. They were stupid questions. You know those electronic kiosks where you can pick up your tickets by sticking in your credit card? It says on the screen these questions, with two prompts, a green YES and a red NO. Real tough isn't it, because terrorists might ram planes into buildings, but they don't lie.
posted by benjh at 11:01 AM on August 29, 2002

swarthy Arab guy

I've seen this particular configuration of words so much lately, usually coming from the Coulter contingent, and applied derisively, that it's beginning to register as a slur. Is it okay to start referring to East Asians as "jaundiced" now too?
posted by donkeyschlong at 11:03 AM on August 29, 2002

I always loved the question about "Did anyone help you pack your bags?". Don't most people get help? Don't false positives that confuse people make the whole thing worthless?

Anyway, in the Rome airport they did this right. Like 10 direct questions, with the guard looking directly at you instead of trying to check your passport at the same time. It made ME nervous, and must be worse for someone who has something to hide.
posted by smackfu at 11:24 AM on August 29, 2002

I once got up the courage to ask the lady behind the desk what they did if anybody gave the wrong answer to one of those questions... her answer: "Oh, we just ask again." (Almost as exciting as the day I got my dental hygienist to admit that she didn't floss, either.)

...passengers will be allowed to carry drinks in paper or foam cups through metal detectors.

I didn't know that was against the rules... neither do many security guards, apparently: they've always just waved their little metal-detector wand over the cup and let me go on through.

Is it because I'm not swarthy?
posted by ook at 11:24 AM on August 29, 2002

just wanted to point out -- I only said "swarthy Arab guy" (and all the rest) 'cause I wanted to hit as many cliches as possible. Probably didn't write that comment well enough.
posted by Vidiot at 11:40 AM on August 29, 2002

Those questions are because of Anne Marie Murphy, an Irish woman whose Palestinian boyfriend placed a bomb in her luggage without her knowledge. (She was pregnant with their child, and travelling to Tel Aviv to meet her in-laws.) Fortunately, El Al security at Heathrow found it. It was 1986, the year the US began asking these questions.

Today, they are somewhat redundant given the security that all luggage is now supposed to negotiate.
posted by dhartung at 11:41 AM on August 29, 2002

Swarthy is one of my favorite adjectives.
posted by TuffAustin at 11:52 AM on August 29, 2002

I'm think they should replace them with questions like:

"Have you ever felt like a woman trapped in a man's body?"

"What's that smell?"

"Correct me if I'm wrong, but do I detect an element of swarthiness?"

"What time is it? Wow! I've been working for 74 hours straight!"

"Can you recite the alphabet backwards?"

And the capper:

"Does this look infected to you?"
posted by UncleFes at 11:55 AM on August 29, 2002

I do hope the airlines have some kind of signs to remind passengers that they shouldn't leave their bags unattended. Just because the questions will no longer be aksed, doesn't mean we can stop being vigilant.
posted by jennak at 11:56 AM on August 29, 2002

Metafilter: Putting the "wart" back in "swarthy"!
posted by UncleFes at 11:59 AM on August 29, 2002

I'm glad those questions are gone too, but I still find this a bit silly. I mean, how can they know what has prevented a bombing or hijacking, and what hasn't? Maybe the fact that those questions are asked has deterred someone from even trying...though I admit that I doubt it.

Has making passengers enter LAX in a single-file line since 9/11, showing their tickets and ID, prevented a bombing or hijacking? How about the discontinuation of pillows on certain airlines' flights? The confiscation of two-inch plastic rifle toys? This seems like a strange time to be talking about what's necessary and what isn't in terms of airport security. But then, maybe this is spin to create a precedent that people can live with, before they start to take away all the other airport annoyances instituted since last year, almost none of which would have interfered with Bin Laden's plan.
posted by bingo at 12:47 PM on August 29, 2002

i was always partial to the question "which weighs more, the Great Pyramid of Giza or the Sears Tower?"

Took me years to find out.

(in point of fact, finding the answer was the first use i ever found for the Internet.)
posted by quin at 4:54 PM on August 29, 2002

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