The New Deal: Will Anyone Want to Fly?
by R.W. Mann, Jr.
(Published in McGraw Hillís "Aviation Daily", 10/10/2001)
 

We're already seeing a total mind-set change in the area of aviation
security and related civil liberties. Some of this is necessary,
arguably overdue, but some approaches, if not properly thought through
and implemented, will radically diminish the desirability of air travel,
especially on short hauls.

If there is a silver lining here somewhere, maybe we will end up with
the long discussed "Single Level of Safety and Security". Hopefully,
it will apply to express/cargo carriers, as well as passenger carriers.
A 300,000 pound MTOW cargo aircraft has at no time in the past been less
of a risk than the passenger variety, yet cargo aircraft standards are
lax by comparison.

The desirability and competitiveness of short haul travel by air could
be severely challenged. Unfortunately, some of the gains made by
innovative airlines that successfully "gave time back" to frequent
business travelers could be lost. Gone for the moment are last minute
show-up and gate check-in, for example.

While the reality may differ in the short term, with few people using
the system, the perception is one of slow, tedious and invasive, federal
security screening at airports, adding a perceived hour or more to all
trips. We have proposals that passenger compartments be locked-off,
flight crew armed, meals eliminated due to cost or security concerns
(or both), and that nothing sharp be allowed onboard.

One carrier has banned essentially all carry-on articles, requiring all
articles be checked and intensively scanned. The scanning is a good
idea, but the idea of **gasp** a post-flight trip to the final frontier,
dreaded carousel number 2, for your laptop and briefcase, is more than
most business travelers will tolerate. Another problem: most airlines
won't take liability for checked laptops, cameras, prescriptions, etc.
Read your contract of carriage.

Does any of this make sense? Maybe. From personal experience, on
those occasions where we have scanned both carry-on and checked baggage
for certain organic substances, we frequently found the contents of
carry-ons was far "badder" than what was being checked, and much worse
than imagined.

So, to the hour or so perceived security delay penalty, add another 30
minutes for the fastest bag delivery I have ever experienced, likely
longer, and the air traveler going ~250 miles or less will surely drive,
video conference or hop the company jet, to avoid the "new age" hassles.

I seriously question whether most short-haul business travelers will
accept the process that's being re-engineered, as it is perceived and
may in fact be (at full volumes, whenever that is, and whatever full
volume represents going forward). If this "stands", it's over for
convenient, speedy, short-haul air travel, which volumetrically,
represents a sizable chuck of activity, and a key piece of certain
carriers' franchises, such as the Shuttles and travel to DCA.

Let's quickly recap the New Deal:

- lengthy, pre-flight, invasive federal security checks,

- compartmentalized aircraft; depending on your perspective,
  the "lock-up" is forward or aft,

- armed guards, AKA your flight crew, "Sky King and Wyatt Earp"
  all-in-one,

- no meals, and nothing sharp allowed onboard: no tweezers, nail clippers
  or files,

- no carry-on articles

It's "Con Air", right? Sure seems that way.

I won't even go into the reality of "shoot down" rules of engagement and
trial balloons involving remote control "saves" of errant aircraft.

As an industry, we've got to be able to do better than this. The
economy is depending on a robust airline industry for support of its
rebound, and the industry is depending on continued travel convenience,
though with enhanced security, at an understandable but affordable cost
in dollar, convenience and civil liberties terms.

"Con Air" won't cut it, nor will the status quo. We'll need the best
and the brightest to solve this one, but we can lick the problem
with a mixture of known, working technologies like INSPASS, plus
carriers' own CRM processes. "Knowing your customer" takes on new
significance as we move forward in the new environment. Keeping it
convenient to fly will be essential.

Let's get to it.