Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Airline travel 2010

Happy new year and welcome back for more from Double D Travels. The recent gap in postings (for which I do apologize) can be attributed to the holidays as well as an incredibly successful work placement at - wait for it! - Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport. I'll share more about that experience in the weeks to come.

Since my last post the world of airline travel has changed once again. The attempted terrorist bombing on Christmas day shocked the world and brought terrorism much too close to home for North Americans. It also ushered in stringent new security regulations meant to make the skies safer but ended up creating confusion at airports around the world.

First there was to be no carry on luggage and no standing up during the last hour of the flight, even if your bladder was about to burst. Then came full body scanners at airports, currently only for flights heading to the US, which the media refered to as "naked body scanners."

Although some of the regulations have been relaxed, talk has recently turned to having to register your travel plans with the US government if you are flying to the US. But you better do it before heading to the airport (because if you don't forget about getting on the airplane). Or security officials trained to look for behaviours that indicate you might be up to no good. (What happens to you if you are simply a nervous flyer but need to travel by airplane?)

Throughout all this, the travelling public has shuffled along in long lines, grumbling under their breath and hoping that their aircraft would still be there when they made it to the gate.

Welcome to airline travel, circa 2010.

My parents always tell me stories about when they first started travelling internationally in the 1960s and into the 1970s. (This was of course, long before terrorists realized that plane loads of people could be used to further their own agendas.) They would arrive at the airport and walk almost directly to the airplane. No hassle, no long lines. Virtually no restrictions on carry on luggage. Maybe even a bit of glamour.

One day when I am a parent and I discover my offspring have inherited this crazy travel bug, maybe I will share stories with them about how in the 1980s and 1990s I used to be able to get on an airplane by ONLY clearing security and presenting a passport. They will think I am crazy.

And then I will tell them about the new millennium and what that brought: removing shoes and belts for security checks. Having my laptop swabbed for explosives. No liquids. Limited to no carry on luggage. Full body scans. Confusion over highly secretive no fly lists. Registration with the US government. The excitement of arriving at your destination tempered by the bladder busting stay in your seat until you are told unless you want an armed air marshall pointing a gun at you arrivals.

I get that we need security and I don't envy the job of governments trying to find the right balance between securing the airplane and taking whatever is left of a passenger's dignity. It just leaves me thinking one thing:

Will it get worse before it gets better?

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