New TSA Rules Actually Make the Liquid Rule Look Rational

I’m back home from my holiday trip, and I have my trip report ready to go, but then someone tried to blow up a Northwest flight into Detroit and the TSA jumped into action. I tried to let my anger cool off for a couple days, but the more I stewed over the changes, the more angry I got. These rules are so absurd that they make the liquid rules look rational.

These rules originally only applied to international flights that are inbound to the US, though I’ve heard they may now also apply to flights going the other way. I’ve heard conflicting reports about how long these will be in place, but some reports have them expiring in the next week. We’ll see. There are really three basic parts to the rules here.

  1. Search the heck out of people before they fly
  2. Make sure people have no idea where they are
  3. Make sure people do nothing for the last hour of the flight


Now, I don’t mind the first part for a short time because it appears this guy was able to easily get onboard with a banned substance in a very small syringe that could have blown up the plane had it worked. So if you need to do full searches of everyone on international flights for a (very) short period, that’s fine. Just figure out a better way to detect it quickly or we’ll end up having to get to the airport 10 hours early. As it is, airlines have started to see massive delays and cancellations because of all the issues.

The second part is where I’m completely baffled. What good is it going to do to keep people from knowing exactly where they are? Airlines are now no longer allowed to show the moving map displays that show where your plane is, and the flight crew can’t let you know where you are during announcements.

What the hell?!? Some airlines have simply had to turn off their entire inflight entertainment system until they can figure out how to simply keep the moving map piece off. Hopefully that happens soon because there are reports of some very unhappy passengers. In short, people need to be completely cut off from the outside world.

The third part is seemingly dumb as well. You basically can’t move during the last hour of the flight. No New Airline Seat Prototypeelectronics, nothing on your lap, and you can’t get out of your seat. Sounds like the rules for flying into Washington/National right after September 11. Rumor has it that they’re going to install electric chairs onboard to keep people from doing anything dumb.

What good is this going to do? I would ask the TSA, but I can already tell you their response. “There is a threat that requires us to do this, but we can’t tell you about it.” So I won’t even bother trying to get an answer. They did finally issue a Q&A for travelers today, several days after the incident, but it is incredibly vague just saying that stuff will be changing and you should leave extra time.

I know that the guy on the Christmas Day flight tried to light the bomb as they began descending, but would he really not just take care of it earlier in the flight if he had everything onboard? Does it matter if you’re at 28,000 feet above Michigan or 34,000 feet above Maine? This rule is stupid, and it brings up a bigger issue.

How the heck did this guy get on an airplane?!? The reports I’ve read show that he was a person of interest, had been shown as having suspected ties to terrorists, and that’s not all. In the most unbelievable admission I can imagine, this guy’s father called the US Embassy in Nigeria a couple months ago to tell him that he was afraid he was going to try to do something bad.

I’ll ask it again. How the hell did he get on this plane?!?

The TSA is trying to get away from incorrect matches on the watch list, so they’ve now required birthdate and sex. How is it that while thousands of people have been incorrectly flagged, this jackass just walks right on the plane.

It’s not like he has a common name. It’s Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. Why wasn’t this guy on the freakin’ no-fly list, or at least on the watch list?

There’s not much more to say here except that regular travelers will once again be punished with absurd rules because the TSA can’t do its job right. I try to be level-headed with these things, but this one is just too much.

Update 12/28 @ 341p: It’s my understanding that most of these rules have now been eased, including the “no moving for the last hour of the flight” piece. This tells me that a rudderless TSA made a rash decision that it walked away from pretty quickly. I may write more about this on BNET this week.

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76 Comments on "New TSA Rules Actually Make the Liquid Rule Look Rational"

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Evan
Guest

It makes you wonder if the people that make these ridiculous rules ever have to fly commercial and put up with them like the rest of us. I mean, now you can’t even read a book for the last hour of a flight? How about we ask the TSA people to do their jobs before we get on the plane, instead of forcing the flight crews to cover for their lack of efficacy? What’s next blindfolds? Hoods? Handcuffs?

Neil S
Guest

Agree on all points, though am not sure the question is how he got on. I think the real question is how has the government not managed to integrate all of its databases in the 8 years since 9/11. I think we’re luckier that this has happened before. A lot.

Wandering Justin
Guest

Great – just what we need: another excuse for Americans to avoid traveling. Even the failed attempts from seemingly random nuts sends ripples through our system and make an already laughable TSA situation even worse.

I agree that the TSA has trouble doing its job right, but shouldn’t authorities in Amsterdam share a fair amount of the responsibility?

JM
Guest
TSA is a miserable mess. My encounters with TSA while flying to and from Atlanta on domestic flights during the Christmas holidays were less than pleasant. The screeners at ATL in particular contain a fair number of individuals who are terribly rude– and everyone seems to just put up with it. And what for? Even TSA’s own tests have shown that many of these same rude people are too often ineffective at finding contraband. And now the Secretary of Homeland Security said (on Meet the Press on Sunday) that, “the system worked.”?!! Typical government bureaucracy– arrogant and dumb, and ineffective.… Read more »
johnny
Member

I’m with you — the TSA is a complete joke. Most of these rules make no sense and do nothing except make me want to either cancel my Int’l travel plans or buy a one-way ticket out of here.

David SF eastbay
Member
The last hour rule is stupid since the man was sitting in his seat at the time, and wasn’t that shoe bomber guy also sitting in his seat at the time? How many crying children will there be the last hour when the evil flight attentants take their teddy bears and dolls away that they are holding? Guess lap infants will now need to be stowed in the overheard compartment since you can’t have anything in your lap. This would be the time to buy stock in adult diaper companys since their sales should go up. A number of people… Read more »
Andrew
Guest

The most absurd thing is how knee-jerk TSA’s responses are to these things. It’s like they sit around waiting for something to happen, and then as soon as it does, they put some policy in place to try to deal with exactly what just happened. Proactive doesn’t seem to be in their vocabulary.

David SF eastbay
Member

Evan wrote:

What’s next blindfolds? Hoods? Handcuffs?

Don’t give them any idea…..lol

Greg
Guest
From the pilot perspective TSA is an absolute joke. There are many glaring security holes, but TSA is too busy harassing people to actually know about these. I have had a plastic butter knife taken from me at a checkpoint while in uniform. What does it matter, I am in the cockpit. I have had TSA agents harass me about several items. In every case I ask for their supervisor and they back off. The agents are often too stupid and lazy to know about or care about their own rules and restrictions. Unfortunately, in the pilot’s case TSA has… Read more »
WillinSacto
Guest

Brett, you captured my thoughts to a “t.” Nothing more needs to be said.

Stephen
Guest

It looks like Cathay Pacific is allowing people to use the in-flight maps now (and people can use the Jetblue TV thing now), link was posted from FT.

http://www.usatoday.com/travel/flights/item.aspx?type=blog&ak=12771.blog

Tommy
Guest

As a member of the crew in the cabin, I’m perplexed by rule 2 and ESPECIALLY rule 3, because I just don’t understand what these are supposed to accomplish.

The only thing I see; as usual, the fall guy in this will be flight attendants, as we are expected to be the on-board “enforcers” of these ridiculous rules, thereby giving the public even more reason to hold us in contempt (which we already know you personally have a lot of contempt for Brett) for upholding ludicrous rules that we didn’t make.

davidthomson_98
Member

Just when we thought it couldn’t get any worse, this is the stupidest thing yet! None of the new measures would have avoided this situation. The TSA and Homeland Security should be held accountable for their inept and incompetent attitude that allowed someone with a unique name, that they had been warned about, that was on a terrorist watch-list to board a plane. And for this idiocy that stems from bureaucratic incompetence we now cant even read a book for the last hour of our flight? This is @#$%%$##@!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

PF
Guest

Sixty minute rule on inbound international – so if he did it at 75 minutes before landing, or 60 minutes after take off, would we have a different policy? This one makes no sense to me. . .at least it’s only on inbound international now.

david
Member

If someone wants to blow up a plane they will be able to. This guy had red flags up and down and he was able to get on a plane. This is the reality of flying and the TSA is not instilling confidence.

Average_Traveler
Guest

Pardon my ignorance… Does TSA control aiport security in other countries? I’m not saying they don’t have some serious problems, but why is an American agency taking the flak for something that started in another country?

Greg
Guest

@ Average_Traveler:

Blaming TSA for the inbound security lapse is partly incorrect. However, it appears our homeland security had credible evidence to not allow this guy to come to our country.

However, where I have issue is TSA’s retarded over-response. And that they will continue to have responses like this.

jaybru
Member
We’re in a fine pickle, now! No surpise. I think most of us who fly know there’s a lot of problems here. So many things make so little sense, but how do we make things work? TSA is such an easy target. And, government regulations for this type of problem are nigh impossible, as you probably know if you’ve ever been tasked to write such things. Sure, we collect information on everything, but how do we use it. And good old common sense? Well, you and I know what that is, but to others, they just don’t understand! Foreigners, people… Read more »
JM
Guest

Average_Traveler wrote:

Pardon my ignorance… Does TSA control aiport security in other countries? I’m not saying they don’t have some serious problems, but why is an American agency taking the flak for something that started in another country?

Given TSA’s stupid response to this situation (and until they quit hiring screeners who got fired from Burger King because they couldn’t master fries), it is as good a time as any to focus attention on the agency.

TSA is making us no safer– it’s just reacting for the sake of reacting!

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Jay
Guest

TSA is making us no safer– it’s just reacting for the sake of reacting!

To play Devil’s advocate: although this guy got through, do you know for a fact that the policies in place (the ones before this incident) have not stopped or deterred others?

MathFox
Guest
One thing we should accept is that there is no such thing as 100% security and any politician who is claiming to provide 100% security is a liar. What governments can do is making it hard to successfully attack some system (an airliner in this case) and looking at the statistics they have been pretty successful in that. (How many people have died in airline terrorism in the last 5 years, how many in airline accidents and how many in car accidents?) On the other hand, has all the money spent on securing airports and planes been spent wisely. Security… Read more »
MathFox
Guest

Jay wrote:

To play Devil’s advocate: although this guy got through, do you know for a fact that the policies in place (the ones before this incident) have not stopped or deterred others?

I am sure that the security measures kept a lot of guns off planes and that a lot of hijackers sought softer targets. (And as I said before: carrying non-metallic contraband on the body is a known weakness in the system.)

Irate Traveler
Guest

None of this will ever change until Homeland Security is run by a professional instead of a political hack. Janet Napolitano is now backtracking on her “system is working” statement. Interviewed on the Today show this morning and now says the system didn’t work. News items this morning now indicate he had no luggage and paid for his ticket in cash, both of which used to be red flags.

I have written my congressman urging him to push for Napolitano’s resignation.

Greg
Guest
@ Jay: It is very difficult to prove a negative. I have an aviation safety minor tacked on to my degree. And the proving a negative was always a hot topic for us. How can we justify our program when, if we are successful, nothing happens. I am sure TSA has lucked out and caught a few would-be harm-doers with their bumbling. Problem is, the agency has little idea what they are doing. And they have been given broad reaching authority with that limited knowledge. We often have TSA burger-flippers come on our airplanes between legs for security screening. Most… Read more »
Nick Barnard
Member
JM wrote: Average_Traveler wrote: TSA is making us no safer– it’s just reacting for the sake of reacting! Sadly, this is what much of the public demands. I’m all for them going for #1 for a while, but #2 and #3 make just about no sense. Whats to prevent a guy from pulling out a portable GPS receiver to figure out where a plane is at? MathFox wrote: One thing we should accept is that there is no such thing as 100% security and any politician who is claiming to provide 100% security is a liar. Sadly in the US… Read more »
tep2
Member

>Why wasn’t this guy on the freakin’ no-fly list, or at least on the watch list?

For details on him being on the no-fly watch list, go to http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/12/26/umar-farouk-abdul-mutalla_n_403943.html. Makes one wonder even more about the TSA!!

Dan
Guest

My favorite is the “do nothing for the last hour of the flight.” Flight Attendants, AFAIK, don’t have the authority to physically restrain somebody. I am going to assume that a person intent on blowing up a plane, and in the process, killing himself, is not going to care that he disregarded a crew-member instruction.

Wonko Beeblebrox
Guest

What about the windows? Can’t you tell that you are over land by merely looking outside?

James Van Dellen
Guest
I took this photo yesterday flying inbound from Mexico: http://www.futuregringo.com/index.php/2009/12/27/how-northwest-253-affects-you/ Remember that BEFORE the Christmas Day incident of Northwest 253 people were told not to congregate in any one area of a plane? On this three hour flight the FAs talked almost non-stop counting us down to the “one hour mark” ecouraging us to “make things go quickly” in the restrooms. (no joke.) Thus half the plane lined up to use the restroom, creating a line down to the exit row. The fact that four days ago it was BAD for everybody to be up milling about the cabin, but… Read more »
al_9000
Member

Have you ever noticed that when liquids are found in security lines, TSA and pax just throw them into trash bins? Seems like a rather cavalier way of handling potential explosives.

Shouldn’t bomb squads be on 24/7 call to dispose of these items?

jim sack
Member

Fly naked, simple as that.

JM
Guest

Jay wrote:

To play Devil’s advocate: although this guy got through, do you know for a fact that the policies in place (the ones before this incident) have not stopped or deterred others?

Yes, I know for a fact that the current TSA system isn’t effective!

Check the Government Accountability Office’s reports here:
http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d0848t.pdf
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-10-128

Or this on TSA’s own mock test (as reported by CNN):
http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/01/28/tsa.bombtest/index.html

The flying public deserves better!

David SF eastbay
Member

I do hope that everyone here is also sending your thoughts/comments/feelings to your Senators, Congressperson, and directly to the White House. An uproar by the people seems to be the only way to get things changed. The one hour rule and nothing on your lap sounds like children playing a game.

TSA and Homeland Security were a joke from the start and it appears TSA still is.

Andrew
Guest
Al B wrote: Have you ever noticed that when liquids are found in security lines, TSA and pax just throw them into trash bins? Seems like a rather cavalier way of handling potential explosives. Shouldn’t bomb squads be on 24/7 call to dispose of these items? This made me laugh out-loud. It just underscores the fact that all of this is nothing but security theater, designed to keep the easily-panicked, easily manipulated “flying public” — the ones that timidly step on a plane a couple times a year, if that — thinking their government has everything under control all so… Read more »
jaybru
Member
Speaking of security, interesting story this early Monday morning (2:30 am) from Frederick, Maryland Municipal airport, a stone’s throw from Camp David. A homeless man, or at least someone of no known address, allegedly stole a single-engine Piper, crashed it along side the runway trying to take off, or whatever. Wonder if he went through proper security procedures. Wonder if he may have had some liquid exceeding TSA limits. Makes you wonder even more what trouble someone who knew what they were doing could have caused, particularly is such a sensitive area of the country. Is this airport, home to… Read more »
Oliver
Guest

> So what will happen now, will the FA make an annoucement
> two hours prior to landing to tell everyone they have one hour
> to pee and poop before seat lock down begins?

yes, that’s *exactly* what happened on my UA flight from Europe to the US yesterday. All personal items had to be in the overhead bins for the last 60 mins. However, they didn’t care that I was reading a newspaper, thus effectively covering up my lap and foot area.

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[…] great perspectives on this incident I have enjoyed reading: * Dan Webb with Things in the Sky * Brett Snyder with Cranky Flier * Mary Kirby on her blog and via Twitter * Steven Frischling with Flying with […]

David SF eastbay
Member
Flight Attendents don’t like being considered flying Waitresses/Waiters, and now the TSA has reduced them to Bathroom Attendents and Seat Monitors. The airlines CEO’s should like that as now they can get rid of them and just hire low paid Kindergarten teachers to do their job. At least they have training on how to keep children in their seats with their hands folder in their lap. After all that’s how we are being treated isn’t it? Remember the movie ‘The 5th Element’? I’m sure TSA and Homeland Security are working on a way to do what they did in the… Read more »
Oliver
Guest

@ David SFeastbay:

> which was put passengers to sleep for their trip

Gee, if it actually works reliably, I wouldn’t mind on some flights. Just yesterday I struggled to get some sleep on a domestic 5-hr flight departing IAD at 10pm… even First Class seats are too uncomfortable.

C S
Guest
It looks like they are backing off the no maps policy, and the no I-pods policy. I guess the utter brainlessness of the policy, or how easily the wily terrorists could be fooled by, looking out the *%&%^ window, or by using this high tech gadget called a watch (It works like this, you calibrate it by the expected arrival, so if you know you will land at JFK at 3:00 PM, you check your “watch” and then…) Watches can be concealed on people’s wrist. Agreed 1 might have to be a necessary evil until we figure out how to… Read more »
dondelta
Member
I was one of the original applicants for the original interview and testing for employment with TSA in Memphis. conducted bt NCS Pearson that was payed over $80,000,000 for the original start up.The whole experience was mind blowing and totally un professional that I would call a cluster x%$ * I had 29 years experience with a major airline in many different areas and was not hired. I also talked to a gentleman that recently retired from the FAA as a special agent and he also did not qualify. I latter learned that the majority of the personal that were… Read more »
Keith Lemick
Guest

Obviously more over reaction from the Andy Frain ushers …I mean TSA.

What happens if a plane is put in a holding pattern by ATC? Is the hour calculated from when the flight was originally supposed to land or will it include the holding time?

I definitely feel sorry for anyone suffering “Montazuma’s revenge” on a return flight.

David SF eastbay
Member

I was just reading the yahoo news story that things have changed.

“””””At the captain’s discretion, passengers can once again have blankets and other items on their laps or move about the cabin during the tail end of flight. In-flight entertainment restrictions have also been lifted.”””””

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20091228/ap_on_bi_ge/us_airline_attack_passenger_tolerance

MeanMeosh
Guest
This has all pretty much been said before, but I’m so riled up, I feel it’s worth repeating again. I don’t really care about the pat-downs. I don’t really care about having my carry-on sifted through. Heck, I don’t really even care if my flight ends up delayed by an hour because of the extra searches. But the stupidity of the directive that we’re all effectively prisoners for the last hour of the flight that really has me rankled. I mean, do they really think we’re stupid enough to not be able to figure how to extrapolate where we are… Read more »
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[…] tend to find the simple way the Cranky Flier summed it up to convey the right sentiments. “How is it that while thousands of people have been […]

IFEGUY
Guest
Cranky You have hit the nail on the head. But the macro issue is with the explosives themselves, not with the passengers. No matter how many lists there are, someone will always be able to get onboard with an assumed identity. The only true safeguard is being able to detect all explosives, no matter where they are hidden on a person or in what amount. If we can’t do that, there will almost certainly be more explosions on aircraft. It was maddening to watch government reps try to reassure the public yesterday while never getting close to this core issue…… Read more »
Turb Coriolis
Guest

New TSA rules… Junior Flyer’s new Premium Economy seat could really come in handy for those ‘last hour comfort’ requirements.
http://bit.ly/4UcNFg

AStabAtEmpathy
Guest

I hope this doesn’t mean United is required to turn off their Channel 9. That’d be a terrible shame. I’ve never stop marveling that the TSA essentially immortalized that inept idiot Richard Reid by requiring all U.S. Americans to take off their shoes whenever they want to fly, but taking away Channel 9 now would really ruin my flight…

Yo
Guest
Now the entire country can see the incompetent Janet Napolitano! We are damned happy to have her out of AZ where she bankrupted the state and then ran. I have bladder issues, it sucks, I get the aisle seat when I fly Int’l, if I have to pee, I will, because you don’t want the alternative. Oh, and when I fly from Cabo to Phoenix, the flight is 90 minutes…so much for service eh? TSA = Turkeys Standing Around, incompetent burger flippers in a snazzy uniform, dumb as a box of snakes. There is just no way to make flying… Read more »
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