TSA Gets Some Damned Sense, Eases Flight Restrictions

Good news, people who are in the unfortunate position of having to do business with an airline in the near future: the TSA’s embarrassingly reactionary new “security rules” have been eased as of this afternoon. Now it is up to the captain whether they’re enforced on each flight, reports CBS News.

“Officials: In-Flight Restrictions Eased” [CBS News]

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  1. H3ion says:

    Security restrictions were eased but TSA decided not to tell anyone. If I can get my laptop through security, why can’t I keep it on my lap? At least there’s an appearance of security but we seem always to be fighting the last war.

  2. ~Ian~ says:

    I may be wrong … but “At the captain’s discretion” sounds to me like they’re just looking for a scapegoat if something goes wrong. They can just say “well this captain didn’t enforce our rules” or something along those lines. It seems to be less of an easing up of the rules and more of a well lets piss less people off and cover our asses by blaming the captain type of thing.

    • admiral_stabbin says:

      That lingo also disturbed me for the exact same reason.

      Everyone always wants someone to blame, eh? :-(

  3. maximus says:

    this Christmas attack shows one thing Al Qaeda can’t plan for… a plane load of furious people willing to beat the living crap out of a terrorist.

    • pepe prawn says:

      agreed. if someone tries to that crap on a flight i’m on… well, they had better be very, very very, very prepared.

    • Cant_stop_the_rock says:

      Willing to beat the crap out of a terrorist who is on fire no less.

      • SScorpio says:

        You misunderstood their actions. The boot and shoe marks found all over him was due to all of his follow passengers seeing he was in distress and they quickly came to his aid and but him out the quickest way they knew how. ;-)

  4. Gman says:

    The rules were dumb idea in the first place. If the evil person is on board with a terrorist device chances are they will change their plans for this new rule.

    The screw up was not letting the person use an electronic device on the plane. The screw up was letting the guy board the plane in the 1st place. Instead of annoying everyone on board with absolutely useless rules – just fix the holes in security before the person even reaches a gate.

    Pat me down, wand me, snif my shoes…whatever. Just let me enjoy my laptop gaming or e-book on the flight.

  5. asdfghjkl says:

    …which makes me afraid that captains will enforce the rules as strictly as possible on every flight, out of fear of what will happen to them if an unsuccessful attack is made on their watch. (A successful attack would presumably leave them with nothing to worry about.)

  6. fotobahn says:

    All the extra security for flights coming into the US. Let’s see on 9/11 one flight was from Boston, is that still a UK colony? Two were from New Amsterdam err NY. And one was from Washington DC, Well, that certainly is foreign.

    • Coles_Law says:

      There was a little incident last Friday, by the way…

      • TechnoDestructo says:

        I think he is suggesting that it does not matter where the plane comes from.

        Except that it kind of does, in that someone getting on a plane from the US is either a natural born citizen, an illegal immigrant, or has been through some sort of screening process to get into the US. Asinine security policies on international flights may be a low hurdle, but at least the differentiation of foreign and domestic flights makes some kind of sense.

    • RandomHookup says:

      Two were from Boston and one from Newark.

  7. redrolla says:

    Maybe I missed it, did they lift the pat down rule?

  8. bogartbrown says:

    I’m flying tomorrow for the first time in about 8 years. I think I’ll just show up wearing only a Snuggie.

    • Bohemian says:

      Soon you will be only permitted to fly with all your items checked, wearing nothing but a snuggie and those awful plastic athletic shower sandals. You will be sedated for the flight to prevent you from doing anything dangerous.

      • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

        i suspect that plastic shower sandals might be explosive

      • Dustbunny says:

        Ha! I had the same thought of keeping people sedated through out the entire flight. If the airlines want to make some extra $$$ maybe they could also offer colonoscopies and dental surgery to all those sedated peeps — sort of a two-for-one deal. Get to where you’re going & take care of your health at the same time. I’m a genius.

        • Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

          You know, at this point, between the stupid security rules, harassment and poor customer service, I think being sedated before you got on a plane would be a blessing.

      • bwcbwc says:

        Actually, that might be a more pleasant experience than most long-haul flights these days.

    • Shoelace says:

      Not safe enough! You’ll remove all your clothing at the airport (it’ll examined, packaged, and sent to your destination if it ‘passes’) and be issued paper clothing, booties, and an appropriately sized disposable diaper to wear during the last hour of the flight. If you’re in First Class you’ll get cotton clothing and two diapers.

  9. Sumtron5000 says:

    How in holy heck is this going to work?? If I go through security with my laptop, camera, and ipod in my carryon and check my luggage, what’s going to happen if the captain decides to xnay all electronics on board? How would I get it all into my checked luggage?

    • subtlefrog says:

      Easy. At that point, they open a door, drop all of it down to the tarmac, and hope that someone will remember to pick up the shattered remains and toss them into the baggage hold.

  10. Chese says:

    The TSA is clearly inept but they keep the wealthy flying on my planes so I’m happy.

  11. StatusfriedCrustomer says:

    Wait – does this rule apply retroactively to people who have been stranded on the tarmac since December 22?

  12. DrRonster says:

    If TSA is worried about notebooks, then just turn the damn thing on to see if it is. Never seen that happen.
    On another note, I flew out of DTW Thursday. Was supposed to be 6:30 am flight but left around 1pm. After we deplaned for the second time I was able to change my return from FLL tonite to Sunday nite at no charge on a non-refundable ticket and got a $100 voucher for another flight. Spirit and the hydraulics were the fault.
    Guess you gotta redo the story about not checking luggage.

    • shepd says:

      Every time I brought a laptop with me they’ve made me show it booting to them. Mind you, that is from Canada to the UK and Cuba, so perhaps it’s a little different.

      • MsAnthropy says:

        I’ve been asked to boot my laptop up by the TSA precisely once (Columbus, Ohio, late 2005 if I remember right)… it was a bit of an awkward moment as the thing wouldn’t switch on, and I knew it wouldn’t, as the battery had got so crap that it would only work when plugged into a power outlet. I’d actually reserved one of the few seats American Airlines had in economy that had such a feature… I did offer to plug it into a power outlet, as I had the adapter in my carry-on, but they didn’t push the issue and accepted my “battery’s dead” excuse and let me through security regardless. Very thorough security, that…

        • MsAnthropy says:

          (Would just like to add that it could have been either Delta or American, thinking about it, and the airport in question could have been Columbus, Atlanta or O’Hare – either late ’05 or summer ’06. Definitely some combination of the above!)

          • MsAnthropy says:

            (argh! plus another extra bit of commenting to acknowledge that I realise it’s immaterial which airline I was flying with. Sorry, brain no worky good today).

        • TechnoDestructo says:

          Why didn’t they just have you plug it in?

          It’s security theater, and the actors are forgetting their lines.

    • TechnoDestructo says:

      Make a custom battery which is half-battery, half-explosive. This is especially doable on notebooks that have multiple battery capacities available. Take the 9 cell battery and give it 6 cells worth of explosive. Or 3 if you don’t think the displayed battery capacity would be believable. You could also have it in the ram expansion slot, or if the thing has an extra hard disk slot in there. I think only the fake battery would have a chance of being sealed well enough to go undetected if you came upon a mechanical or canine bomb sniffer, though (and I’m not even sure that’s possible regardless).

      Hell, if you don’t mind ruining its heat dissipation, there’s all kinds of nooks and crannies you could pack with explosives in a notebook.

      There is no stopping everything. The only reason there are so many failed attempts at terrorist attacks is that apparently it’s easier to recruit stupid people do do them.

      • LadySiren is murdering her kids with HFCS and processed cheese says:

        Excuse me sir, that was an extremely nice, helpful post there, but these agents would like a word with you in our private screening area…

    • Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

      They used to do that for a year or two after 9/11, but they must have decided that making all 300 passengers in a security line boot up their laptops took too long (or maybe the Windows boot-up sound was driving agents insane).

  13. thisistobehelpful says:

    So they undid the idiotic new rules but failed to fix the idiotic old rules. I guess some progress is better than no progress.

  14. ConsumerWolf says:

    It’s up to the captain as to whether or not to enforce these stupid rules? I think that’s a bit too much power for someone who is basically an over-glorified bus driver. How about we just rely on common sense?

    • Bohemian says:

      NPR was interviewing a former commercial airline pilot today who was bemoaning the whole mess. Said he was more worried about actual bombs on board than someone trying to carve their way into the cockpit with tweezers, nail clippers and a kitchen knife. It sounded like the lack of focus of the TSA on tactics and items that actually matter was a big factor in his leaving.

  15. Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

    Wow, it’s like I’m psychic. :P

    • Chris Walters says:

      Did you read the article? It really was almost exactly what you said in the earlier post–airlines were worried that business fliers would revolt.

      • Chris Walters says:

        I meant, “I know! Did you read the article?” Sometimes it’s hard *not* to sound like an ass on the Internet.

  16. badgeman46 says:

    I was more worried about having to carry a thunderjug on board since they won’t let you get up to take a well deserved whizz.

  17. Fred E. says:

    Darn, I have always enjoyed getting patted down by a cute guy in a tight uniform!

  18. Benny Gesserit says:

    Do think, maybe, they could call someone in Ottawa and let them know. The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority issued a statement here

    http://www.tc.gc.ca//eng/mediaroom/backgrounders-menu-5781.htm

    stating there will be zero carry-on’s on flights into the US. (Some exceptions – I think you have to carry your camera on in your hand, if I read it correctly.)

  19. David in Brasil says:

    As much as I’d like to agree with you – and believe me, I’d really like to agree with you – the thing that they didn’t plan for was a faulty bomb. If the ignitor on that thing had worked correctly, all the fightin-angry passengers on the plane wouldn’t have helped. It would have had a huge hole in the side.

    • lesbiansayswhat says:

      Was the thing that powerful? I haven’t been reading that much into it but all the reports I’ve seen call it something akin to ‘a fireworks-like device’.

    • cmdr.sass says:

      It would have been a tiny hole of no consequence to the airworthiness of the craft.

  20. BelleSade says:

    Does the “no carry on” rule include the so-called “personal item” (your purse or whatever).?

  21. Elphaba says:

    If this guy had the bomb in his crotch, how would a pat down help? I’ve been patted down and they never got anywhere near my crotch. They also didn’t pat the bottom of my bossom, a place where it is very easy to hide things.

    However, one go round with the puffer machine would have likely caught this. Less intrusive, less room for human error. Machine’s don’t get squeamish about putting their hands in someone’s crotch.

    Just don’t wear a skirt when you fly. Don’t ask.

    • bwcbwc says:

      Puffer is too slow to run on everyone (takes about 20 seconds), so it would be random chance to catch someone like this.

  22. lesbiansayswhat says:

    So essentially the TSA’s official decision it to leave it up to the captains to take responsibility for anything that slips by the TSA. Evil genius.

  23. phaedrus says:

    Makes you wish we had a good passenger rail system, eh?

    • katzeroo says:

      phaedrus: Look at what China is doing. I want to know why the US cant get its ‘stuff’ together and make a high-speed rail,perhaps along the East Coast or East to West. If people could get on one of these trains and make it to Miami from NYC in 5-6 hours, you’d see a lot of deviation from air travel. That’s for sure.

    • MMD says:

      Of course, if we did have decent rail service, the TSA would get involved and ruin that, too…

  24. mrkitty says:

    hmmmm….. based on other Consumerist posts about bag fees?

    Are these bastards charging people the regular checked baggage fee for “extra items”?

    Sorry sir…. you can’t take any carry-ons, but you owe us $459 for extra “baggage”

  25. katzeroo says:

    We’ll all feel safe once the TSA starts screening people and not ‘things’, Go through Ben Gurion in Israel and you will see what real screening is about. The security officers there are watching everyone on line (including if you are chatting people up) and are judging peoples reactions to questioning (fairly friendly, btw). Everyone there has military training and specific training to read people and decide who may be a threat. Oh, and they un-PC profile as they (and we) should. Meanwhile, our TSA come from off the streets with no background, dont look through things as they should, don’t question anyone, makes grandma and the kids take of their shoes cause we need to be ‘proper’. The screening here is basically window dressing being sold to us as security. Really, no one should feel safe. It literally is ‘better than nothing’….barely.

    • RogerTheAlien says:

      While I generally agree with you that we, as a country, provide a little bit too much liberty in some instances, perhaps, it’s all a very slippery slope. Once we start down that path, it’s hard to go back up hill. But, El Al is THE safest airline. I think that’s according to SkyTrax (www.airlinequality.com). And it’d be hard to deny their screening processes as at least part of the reason.

      However, it takes events like 9/11 for a lot of Americans to realize how complacent we’ve become. But, at the same time, we’re a country founded on civil liberties. And, we can’t pick and choose to whom we afford those civil liberties. So, unless we trim a little fat off the Constitution, we’re going to be open to terrorism. That’s the down-side of being in a free society such as ours. A society we laud for so many great things, and rightly so.

      • katzeroo says:

        Giving someone a n extra screening because they fit a profile or things don’t seem to add up isn’t not a violation of civil liberties. The police and the FBI use just such profiling every day in order to put scum of the earth in jail so you and I can live happy lives without murders trying to kill us as so forth. Doing this protects everyones liberties on a pressurized tube hurtling through the air @ 500mph @ 40K feet. No one is doing this to people as they enter supermarkets or shopping malls (they do in Israel, but sadly, they need to). This is a specific situation at a border crossing point. No ones liberties will be violated and no one should have anything to fear….provided they weren’t sent by Al-Qaida of course.

    • lesbiansayswhat says:

      TSA agents don’t come ‘off the street’, they’re screened and go through multiple levels of training. Sure they may not have a degree in anything but they aren’t inherently idiotic. And I don’t see any proof that profiling does any good..isn’t it about gathering information on suspicious travelers and communicating that with everyone? What about profiling do you suggest is successful for the US?

      I don’t doubt Israel is extremely vigilant and successful about security since they sit right next to their enemies but if the US started acting like Israel its citizens would be incredibly angry. TSA has dumb rules and a lot of it is security dressing but we’re not unprotected, which might be why we haven’t had another 9/11 attack for almost a decade. Also, I’m not convinced the US doesn’t profile from personal experience..I have brown skin and 8 times out of 10 I get picked out for an extra pat down.

      • katzeroo says:

        There was nothing I saw in the screening that was intentionally vicious or demeaning. Certain people got asked a few more question about certain places they visited that were stamped in their passports, sometimes groups (who were not obviously families) were briefly divided and asked separately how they knew one another (to see if their stories corroborated). Sometimes certain peoples names were run through a computer…I suppose Interpol and whatever other security monitors they use…..sure I had to be at the airport 3 hrs in advance, but at least everyone got checked out, and it’s to everyones benefit. The screeners were firm, but quite courteous. People in the states are all about speed and convenience, but I’d rather be a little inconvenienced than in little pieces all over the place.

        As for profiling, the police and FBI form profiles about various criminals in order to more successfully track them down. No sense frisking grandma if she doesn’t fit the profile, right? If its a certain age range, background, place of birth in the world, etc…that fits the profile of people trying to blow up planes, the government should be being politically incorrect and do what it needs too instead of wasting everyones time, sentiment be damned. This is about people’s lives. I’ll take inconvenience over death any day of the week.

        • lesbiansayswhat says:

          All of the screening you mentioned in the first paragraph happens here. In this case, it was even on record that the attempted bomber was a threat. No idea yet why he was allowed on a plane but I’m guessing it has a lot to do with the particular airport and that rules already in place were overlooked and communication failures added up to this incident being able to happen.

          I’m guessing you are not identified in govt papers as Arab or from a country in the Middle East so it’s kind of pointless to say you don’t mind the extra inconvenience for racial profiling when you aren’t being pulled aside to be interrogated. Anyway, there’s nothing about what you suggested the US do that the US doesn’t do.

          I’ll also throw in a wrench and ask why middle-aged white men aren’t profiled before they’re allowed to buy bombs or guns since some of them have used violence against certain people in the US. The percentage of US white men that are US terrorists is very low, same as the percentage of Arab men that are terrorists. All that said, racial profiling simply doesn’t work:
          http://www.civilrights.org/publications/wrong-then/profiling_terrorism.html

  26. fitzhume says:

    But wait… not letting anyone get up during the last hour makes perfect sense because this guy tried to blow up the plane just before landing! Had he tried to do it just after takeoff it would have made sense for people to not beallowed to get out of their seats during the first hour! Honestly… who thinks of this stuff?

    • Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

      Because this is what the TSA does best, coming up with silly knee-jerk reactions which forbid absolutely anything the latest terrorist did. So if the guy had blown his nose before he tried his little stunt, they’d have banned kleenex, or if he’d been drinking a diet-Coke , they’d banned all diet soda from the flight (or maybe just Coke products? Who knows?)

      So basically the TSA rules assume another terrorist couldn’t possibly alter the routine because they’re all part of some big Borg collective or something.

  27. headhot says:

    I dont understand the “must be seated 1 hr before landing” rule.
    1. The terrorist was seated.
    2. You could always blow up the plane 61 minutes before landing.

    • phaedrus says:

      Theory being they want to do it when the aircraft is over a city, like in the last few minutes of a flight. Beginning of a flight would probably work better as the tanks are full.

      That being said, we’ve turned into a nation of paranoids. Yeah, it could happen but I’m still 10 times more likely to die driving to the airport, and few of us seem hesitant to do that. Conversely, the security issues and frequency of airline problems make a drive of 300 miles on average less time consuming that flying.

  28. MooseOfReason says:

    If they kept that “no getting out of your seat” (to use the bathroom) rule in place, they would have had humans rights groups up their ass, and rightly so.

  29. Aresef says:

    Photo up there is an ANA plane. Makes me want to go back to Japan. And to the Consumerist peeps out there, I highly recommend them. Way much better than any Western airline. I hear they’re upgrading their economy cabins with iPod jacks, power ports and touch screens.

  30. TechnoDestructo says:
  31. Yentaleh says:

    Are guitars allowed on board the plane? If they are, I can get a rousing rendition of Kumbiah going. If we sing it loud and long enough it should attract attention and when we land, I’ll tell them that I will continue to bring my instrument on and my lungs and I will do this until they relent. (Of course this is only done for the captains of the planes that have no common sense and are complete d*cks.)

  32. soj4life says:

    Didn’t they have another Nigerian causing problems? Oh yeah they did. We live in a different world today than we did 10 years ago, there are people that have no problem killing themselves and taking a few hundred or thousand Americans with them.

    • Coelacanth says:

      Yes, those nutcases were apparently satisfied doing similar things in countries that weren’t America… but that doesn’t seem to get the same attention as when it’s in our own backyard.

  33. missdona says:

    I took a domestic flight last night. Arrived 2 and a half hours early, and Continental volunteered to rebook my husband and I on an earlier flight. There was no line at security, but they did a residue test on my kippie and they patted down my husband. It may have been the easiest and most pleasant flying experience in a long while.

  34. Excuse My Ambition Deficit Disorder says:

    Come on…are you kidding me. The TSA makes these awful rules and instead of reversing their decision…they cover their butts by leaving it up to the Captain of the aircraft. Like the Captain doesn’t have enough to worry about like maybe flying the plane; they now are being forced to provide decisions on security.

    Hey TSA, how about having a back bone by standing behind your rules and enforce your rules instead of throwing it off on someone else. Remember, that’s one of the reasons your “department” was created to do. I’d much rather the Captain and the crew concentrated on keeping the bird flying then trying to provide “security”.

  35. TheMonkeyKing says:

    Friends just flew back to the States from Australia. They were told that they could read books but they would have to hold them in the air for the last hour of the flight.

    I’m worried about my upcoming trip to Vancouver for the Olympics. Maybe I should mail my luggage before I fly and fly with practically nothing?

    Funny: XKCD’s take on the whole TSA flight restrictions (before this incident, too): http://www.xkcd.com/651/

  36. 4dawgswoof says:

    We flew on British Airways from London Heathrow to Seattle on December 27th. Just prior to boarding, they did a thorough carry-on bag search and patdown search of each passenger. They did not refuse any type of carry on luggage. This procedure caused a 90 minute delay in our flight. Once on board, they announced that “as a condition of entrance to the United States”, all passengers will comply with the new TSA rules. At 90 minutes from landing, we were told that we could not move from out seat during the last one hour of the flight, and we could not have anything on our lap or any personal items under our seats. Just before the one hour mark they came through the cabin and took away all blankets, pillows and had us put all baggage in the luggage rack.

    Call me stupid, but if I were a terrorist with a bomb, I would simply detonate the bomb before the one hour mark.

    I am terribly disappointed in our inept government in protecting our citizens. This guy bought a one-way ticket, with cash, and his father reported him to the Nigerian embassy naming him an Al Quaida sympathizer. What more information do you need to create a risk profile on this guy?