We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Thoughts about how airlines can ease the pain of security clampdowns

The news that one is not even allowed to take anything as threatening as a book on an aircraft or a bottle of Evian water – unless bought from an overpriced airport shop, no doubt – got me thinking about how the more customer-conscious airlines might try and deal with this. Millions of businessmen and women, for example, take stuff like laptop computers and documents to read on a trip to and from their meetings. These folk often pay business class rates and are valuable customers. I fly around Europe a fair deal to business meetings and it would seriously mess up my work life if I was not able to read anything on a trip. If I am forced to put my laptop in the main luggage, there is always the risk that the machine gets broken (this is no minor problem). It is also a real problem if people cannot take water with them to drink on flights, since flying typically is dehydrating and makes jetlag worse. These may appear niggling issues but actually they make a lot of difference to whether folk will fly or take other forms of transport. So what are the airlines to do?

Well, for a start, an airline could have a bunch of laptops in the aircraft and offer people the chance to use them, simply by giving them a disk which they can use to download stuff they want from their own machines and then use in a machine provided by the airline. If the overhead lockers are no longer needed for handluggage, then perhaps that free space could be filled with books, drinks, iPods, and other gadgets to help folk pass the time.

Flying is being turned into an experience in which passengers, even though they are paying customers, are treated as near-criminals. It is no excuse for the airlines to shrug their shoulders and blame all of this on the security services. They must think of imaginative ways to make travelling as pleasant as possible in the current worrying security environment. If they do not do so, then frankly they can expect little sympathy from me if they subsequently experience financial troubles. We must not, and cannot, let the nihilist losers of radical Islam bring our lives to a halt. Remember: the best revenge is to live well.

45 comments to Thoughts about how airlines can ease the pain of security clampdowns

  • James

    Probably the best way of reducing the pain of over-reactionary security measures is just to stop flying altogether. Not likely, I know, but if that happened, I’m sure the Government would have to rethink its short-sighted PR stunt.

    What’s the point in whingeing anymore? The terrorists have won. The Government conceded to them years ago.

  • Winger

    The terrorists haven’t won. If they had or thought they had, they wouldn’t be trying so hard right now. I hope that us (“The West”) being optimistic and positive frustrates them.

    It would be better not to fly but is impractical for several reasons. For example, on Monday, my family and I are flying the USA coast to coast. We’d planned on driving but panic amongst oil futures investors has raised the estimated minimum cost of gas (petrol) + expenses to equal or surpass 4 roundtrip tickets. I personally had been looking forward to the road trip. Damn.

    I’m sure business travelers would have problems, temporally speaking.

    Johnathan: Those are some of the most sensible suggestions I believe I’ve ever heard. So, of course, they’ll never come to be.

    If the laptop manufacturers had a clue, they’d instigate the loaner scheme themselves as a means of introducing new items to the people who be likely to buy them, similar to “demo” skis at alpine resorts.

    This isn’t over yet. At least now the guy in Row 1 with laptop, briefcase, suit carrier and overnight bag, who boarded early, won’t be blocking the aisle as he stuffs his gear into your overhead bin.

  • cirby

    Checking your computer is mostly a “no way in hell” proposition for most business travelers, since the airlines refuse (for the most part) to be responsible for any damage to any expensive electronic device not still in the original packaging. So the $2000 laptop you have in your briefcase which disappears or gets run over by a baggage cart is, well, not their problem.

    I think the “no electronics” rule will go away pretty quickly, much as the “no pointy metal objects at all” rule got softened quite a bit.

    What will happen is a fast push to install comprehensive explosive detection machinery. There are a half-dozen ways to handle this, and several competing technologies that can detect pretty much anything that can go boom.

  • Bobbo

    Well, apparently this acetone/peroxide mix that was planned to be used is more volatile than nitroglycerine. So I propose the jiggle tester. A prospective flyer steps into a giant armor box, which then jiggles or lurches or something. If there’s any of that crap (or nitro), prospective flyer/terrorist explodes in armored box. Might need some polishing, but I think this has potential. Put a video camera in and one can sell the video to Face of Death to recoup costs.

    Additionally, there has been recent experiments showing that hydrogen sulfide induces hibernation in mice. I propose we put all airline passengers in hibernation. They show up in the lounge, enter their hypersulfide chamber with footlocker, and then the hydrogen sulfide goes to 80 ppm and passenger sleeps through both the jiggle test and the flight. No whining kids, no arm rest stealers, no people who can’t hold their water for a mere eight hours.

    Either way the electronic thing is exceedingly annoying. Thankfully, Swiss Air is only doing the fluid thing as far as I can tell, so I won’t have to pack my laptop in clothes and hope for the best when I fly back to the ‘States.

  • Naked flights, its the only answer. You know there’s bound to be some Web2.0 outfit out there right now frantically coding a airline travellers matchmaking service in anticipation.

  • nic

    My cousin suggested seperate baggage planes that might make the amount of stuff needing to be securely examined reduced. The prospect of blowing up a airplane’s worth of luggage sounds a bit less “skies run red with Allah’s wrath” and more of an inconvenience. Would be a bugger connecting the luggage with the people at the other end of course.

  • The Dude

    I know there is no way in hell I’d put my laptop through check-in. There’s just too much confidential stuff on it, plus I’ve done enough business travelling to know what happens to luggage!

  • Richard Thomas

    When I came over to the states, I brought two computer hard-drives with me, carefully wrapped in the checked luggage. Neither was readable on arrival. I have also had items crushed in the luggage in transit (cans of my fave English beer) and now always buy hard-shelled suitcases.


  • There is no way that most airlines could afford to supply laptops to customers and still turn a profit.

  • Petro

    Our CULTURE already treats us as near-criminals, why any shock at Airlines being different?

  • lucklucky

    What will be the turnaround time for an A-380?
    And thinking about it i am afraid it will be a premium prize for terrorists.

  • Kim du Toit

    What I have a problem with is why people feel the need to have to work while they travel. Have we become such slaves to The Man that an hour or two not spent working on a PowerPoint presentation is irreutable proof that we’re a bunch of slackers?

    I don’t buy it.

    Before laptops (right after we discovered fire), it was not uncommon to see the occasional businessman working on his papers with a stylus pen and parchment paper. In fact, it was quite common. Yet now we have the all-encompassing need to fill every bit of “down time” with work?

    I don’t think so.

    When I was a corporate warrior, and did up to fifty flights a year out of O’Hare Airport in Chicago, I never took work onto a plane — I either had it all done before I left, or else I made sure I had enough time to get it done after I arrived, in my hotel room. I did that for nearly ten years, and I don’t think my bosses thought any the less of me for either reading a book on the flight (maybe a business book, maybe just a novel), sleeping or else thinking.

    In fact, those couple of hours of quiet solitude and introspection were a welcome part of my life, given that the rest was taken up with work of astonishing stress and responsibility, not to mention the normal situation of being a family man.

    So I look askance on the querulous whining of people being deprived of their laptops for that precious hour between London and Frankfurt, or Chicago and St. Louis, and wonder why they don’t just get a life (nothing personal, Johnathan, but there it is).

    I might even be inclined to make an exception for people who have to take transatlantic or -pacific flights, because eight hours is a long time not to be “productive” — but not overly long, once you take out the five hours or so for sleep.

    Already, you’re (blessedly) not allowed to use your cell phone on an airliner because of technical constraints, so not having access to your laptop shouldn’t be a big deal either.

    All that said, I am enormously concerned at the prospect of having to put my laptop into checked luggage, given how theft and damage are so common.

    The answer, surely, is to have your suitcase and its contents thoroughly inspected, and then sealed/locked against retrieval at the final destination.

    Until that happens, though, I just won’t fly. And if I have to fly overseas, I just won’t take my laptop. Let my employers figure out the answer to that one.

  • cirby


    I’m not so concerned about not being able to use my laptop for work. I really like having it available for those half-day cross-country flights, or sitting in the terminal at a stopover for three or four hours. Ditto (especially) for my iPod. It’s not the work, it’s the boredom. Movies, games, music – heck, just knowing that I can sit and read one of the 100 megs of e-books is a bit of comfort. Sure, I usually have a couple of good-sized real books, too, but it’s nice to have some variety (and to know that I won’t have to get stuck watching the latest Hollywood craptacular on those San Fran to Atlanta to Orlando marathon flights).

    …and I really, really want to know that it’s going to end up with me in whatever city I’m working in, instead of being misrouted (or teken home in some baggage handler’s backpack).

  • stephen ottridge

    I do crosswords regularly, I suggest that others do the same. You can tear the crossword from the newspaper and tuck it in with your plane ticket.

    Surely the answer is to check your laptop and have them delivered to the cabin and kept under guard by the crew until landing. This hopefully protects against stealing and mishandling, perhaps only for first/business class, the tickets are expensive enough.
    As for duty free, do as they do in Australia, you buy it when you land as you are heading to get your bags. Much more sensible than lugging it on board planes, I’m glad that that has ended.
    Australia has other good ideas too like no more 1c coins, everything is rounded off to the nearest 5c.

  • Bruce Hoult

    Here in NZ we have this month dumped the 5c coins as well, and reduced the physical size of the 10c, 20c and 50c coins.

    So our smallest coin is now worth about US$0.06 and you never need more than three coins (vs 4 while we had the 5c) to make up any possible price (or change amount) under $1. As opposed to the US, where for certain prices you can need (or be given as change) nine coins even with an optimal selection.

  • Daveon

    Well, the first rule, for long haul is fly business or first, or, at a push premium economy, with a gold/platinum frequent flyer card – I find the treatment is much more agreeable end-to-end if you’ve paid more for the ticket. I can certainly see the all business airlines doing well out of this if they can reach a security agreement.

    There’s rarely a problem with Business or First Class checkin at Terminal 4, which is what I normally use.

    For short haul trips the lack of the laptop is no problem, and the iPod is a nusance. I will miss noise reducing headphones as they’ve definately been good for my hearing over the last couple of years, especially compared to the freebie crap on BA.

    For long haul I’ve got to think long and hard. I don’t just use my laptop for working on flights, which I typically limit to a couple of hours on a long haul. I also use it for games, DVDs and catching up on the TV shows I never have time to watch. I fly BA long haul roughly 3 times a month and have seen pretty much every stretched, worn out movie several times.

    The ban on laptops will make it worth my while using Amsterdam or Copenhagen as a hub instead.

  • Christ, Kim. I was reading your comment and wasn’t three paragraphs in before I was thinking, “Okay, who is this dope?”

    Look: it’s pretty easy for you to sit there positing other peoples’ values, but you don’t live them. Let me tell you something: my brother is a lighting designer with a company that does “corporate theater”. That’s stuff like product roll-outs, sales meetings, other various corporate rah-rahs. He flies all over America and the world, all the time. He also handles just about all the AutoCAD drafting for the company, and for the past eight years or so he has spent a great deal of effort at scratching out spare hours here and there drawing with his laptop. He draws on airplanes all the time: it’s some of the best time he can get for that end of things. And you can call him a “slave to the man” if you want, but the fact is that he cranks out a damned good living at it. It’s important to him, if no one else, like you, for instance.

    “Get a life”? He has a life, and this is a big part of how he’s built it. You value “those couple of hours of quiet solitude and introspection”, and if anyone came toddling along to tell you to “get busy”, I’d say they’re being a “dope”, because it none of their goddamned business.

    Get it?

    On the matter of theft: a guy I work with lost a guitar a couple of months ago. It went on the airplane at San Francisco, the airline and the cops say it was scanned off the airplane at Louisville, and nobody ever saw it again. It disappeared whole, Anvil flight case & everything, between the jet and baggage-claim. I keep asking him about it, but nobody has a clue.

    Me? I never check anything anymore whenever I can avoid it. (Like: when I’m out only a short enough time that I can fit everything I need in carry-on.) I’m off to Detroit next week: I’m not looking forward to any of this. I already hate these TSA shitbags with a blazing intensity, and if it weren’t a career decision, you couldn’t drag me aboard a commercial flight anymore.

    Let’s watch what happens to airline revenues behind this.

  • Kim du Toit


    You sound like your brother’s situation is something new. It isn’t. Some people have always had to perform high-tech jobs under extreme pressure, and the no-tech hours spent on flights were a huge hassle.

    I know whereof I speak, because I was one of them.

    But, like most of your opinions, you base your diatribe on wishful thinking. The fact of the matter is that if the airlines have to take steps to prevent terrorism, and laptops are seen as a potential threat, then they are going to ban laptops from being carried on board the aircraft.

    That’s one piece of reality. Here’s another: if you check your laptop, it may well get stolen.

    So what you’re left with is quite simple: either forgo the travel and conduct your business with virtual meetings; or ship your laptop to your destination via FedEx; or take a chance that it’s going to get stolen by some baggage-handler; or work around those enforced no-tech hours.

    Yeah, that adds stress to your life. So does the chance of your airliner becoming a flaming coffin at 35,000 feet. That, by the way, is no small risk — because what we’ve learned is that for suicide bombers, everything is a weapon, and airliners are the most vulnerable targets.

    Those are the choices. I don’t like them either; as a writer, I’ve always welcomed the chance to grab a few hours to edit my stuff. Now I can’t do that anymore.

    But that is the reality. Feel free to explain to me how your vociferous carping and whining might change one iota of the situation.

    On the other point: I’ve always resisted the situation where my employer feels they have the right to intrude into all aspects of my life. I remember once being told that I had to give my boss my contact phone number before I went on vacation. When I asked why, I was told that “the Company can’t run the risk of being held up because of a piece of vital information you might have”. (I was a pretty senior executive at the time.)

    I told my boss the phone number of the resort I was going to be staying at. Then I added the caveat: “But my vacation gets interrupted for some bullshit reason — and I will decide what constitutes ‘bullshit’ — I’m going to end my vacation immediately, come back here and punch that person right in his fucking face.”

    I was never called.

    Business travel is a huge pain in the ass for the traveler. It’s becoming a bigger pain in the ass, for everyone. Well, companies have had a free ride because of greater connectivity for the past few years, and they’re now going to lose it. They are the ones who will have to make the changes, not us.

    It’s the new reality: get used to it.

    And yeah: people who devote every single waking hour of their lives to their job need to get a fucking life, or else stop bitching and moaning about the stresses and strains of a lifestyle they’ve chosen.

    Screw the productivity assholes. We’re people, not machines.

  • cirby


    There’s a big difference between the business traveler who’s in a plane “off the clock” (because he doesn’t get paid extra for that travel time) and the guys like Billy’s brother (and myself – I’m in the same industry) who are literally being paid to travel (get up in the morning, get on the plane, get to the other end of the country, check into the hotel, get paid a full day’s wage plus per diem). I see no problem with working for a few hours on a plane when the client’s paying me a few hundred bucks to just sit there.

    Heck, I feel happier when I can check in with the client early in the morning, find out changes that need to be made, and get them out of the way during “dead time,” instead of having to slam the work in during show setup while some middle-management guy is breathing down my neck..

    As far as “getting used to not having a computer,” that’s not going to happen. The current UK mandate to check computers hasn’t made it across the Atlantic to the US, and almost certainly won’t survive as a long term policy. What will probably happen is a hard restriction on the volume of what can be taken on, and any electronics of more than a given size will be subjected to a more rigorous search.

  • Kim du Toit


    Here’s the thing: I’ve been both a corporate warrior (15 years) as well as a self-employed consultant (12 years), so I understand every single aspect of this issue.

    If the Brits think laptops on flights are a big enough risk that they ban them, then that’s their prerogative. US airlines probably won’t, because of the carping and wailing from the business sector, and the potential loss of business.

    You see, I also understand everybody’s point of view.

    Understand, however, that those stolen hours of extra productivity were a bonus brought about by technological progress.

    Unfortunately, that same progress has allowed our enemies to improve their bomb-detonation skills too.

    That’s the new reality, and we’re just going to have to live with it.

  • Dave


    Screw the productivity assholes. We’re people, not machines.

    And screw people who think they know what is good for other people. I like working on planes, flying long haul bores the hell out of me. Now, short haul on a turbo prop is a different thing, that’s much more fun.

    I generally have a lot to do before I arrive at client site, more than I could do in the office before leaving. I’ve presentations to check and reherse, email to clear out.

    I’m paid a lot for this, and I don’t whinge, except when people get in the way of me doing it. If I can’t work from British airports – I’ll fly another way.

  • arnaud

    It’s not about having the possibility of working or not with your lappy. I’m a student and I got a 2500€ loan for buying my laptop, which means, if it gets crushed or stolen; I have by no means, the money to buy a new one and my insurance will probably pay for half of it. I don’t make a living with it. Nonetheless, the content of its harddrive are critical for me and/or for confidentiality reasons. I usually don’t use it in planes, bit I want to carry it with me because I don’t trust checked-in services.

  • “New”: that’s your word, Kim, not mine. Whether it’s “new” or not has nothing to do with any of it. And my “diatribe” is about people who call other people “whin[ers]” just because they prefer to spend their time doing things that others don’t. If you have a point to make in this, you could do it without that. Bryan is no more a “whiner” than you are when you “proselytize” (yes; that’s right) about stuff that lights you up and you put it on your blog. In fact, he doesn’t say anything about any of it. He just puts his head down and finds a way through it. You and me: we’re the ones who spend time at “carping and whining”, since you’re pleased to call it that.

    “Feel free” to tell your boss what you want to: my brother accepts large deposits in his accounts regularly for the responsibility that he takes on, and I know exactly what he would make of your presumption of coaching his business affairs, which is: exactly nothing at all. Of course, you get to logon and “carp” about it, but feel free to explain how your “carping” is going to change it one iota. It won’t, for the reason I said: it’s none of your business.

    I suppose you could cheerlead for banning laptops, if you want to. You’ll be right in the cultural pocket if you do. Make yourself comfortable.

    But it’s utter bullshit, and every thinking person knows it.

  • cirby

    Unfortunately, that same progress has allowed our enemies to improve their bomb-detonation skills too.

    Actually, not so much.

    Generally, the bombs we’re seeing from the bad guys use explosives tech that’s literally a hundred years old. The explosive of choice in this case was TATP, which was discovered in 1895, and is used by the bad guys because they’re not smart enough to make something more sophisticated (even nitroglycerin is less sensitive than TATP).

    More modern “high tech” explosives like C-4 are over 40 years old. The detonation tech might involve batteries from things like iPods or cell phones, but TATP can be set off with a good sharp kick, heat, or even a static spark.

    There’s nothing in the bombing techniques of al Qaeda or the rest that rely on anything like a “high tech” approach. If anything, they’re more on the low tech side, with manually-mixed compounds and hand-detonated bombs. The closest they come to high tech is looking up the flights on the Web.

  • Cirby — “Heck, I feel happier when I can check in with the client early in the morning, find out changes that need to be made, and get them out of the way during ‘dead time,’ instead of having to slam the work in during show setup while some middle-management guy is breathing down my neck.”

    (vigorous nod) You’re the one who understands what I’m talking about. I’ve worked that market, too, and I’ll tell you what: given a choice between baby-sitting lunatic rock stars all over the place and dealing with some of the crap I’ve seen from smiley-faced gimps in the Dockers & loafers crowd, I’ll work with the former every time. Personally, I don’t get it, but my brother does, in a big way. And there is a lot more to it than almost anyone who’s never done it can imagine.

    My hat’s off to anyone who thrives on it, which ought to be the whole point, and really is, for some people.

  • cirby

    (That’s interesting. My Turing code for that last post was 471959, I’m 47, and was born in 1959…)

  • Kim du Toit

    Yeah, right: laptops have been banned from airliners in the UK just because someone was exercising their power over others.

    What planet are you living on?

    Simple fact: it’s simple (with serious financial assistance) to make a bomb wherein the explosives reside inside a sealed container inside the laptop’s battery (with a tiny compartment left for actual battery operation).

    So when Ahmed Al-Martyr gets the okay to turn on his laptop once the airliner has reached its cruising altitude, he does so, and just waits for the clock to reach a certain point, then goes off to meet his 72 virgins…

    …along with a couple hundred other not-so-willing martyrs.

    I’ve seen the technology illustrated, so this is not a figment of anyone’s imagination. It is 100% undetectable by any existing methodology. I’m just surprised that laptops and CD players have remained unbanned for so long.

    It was only a matter of time before electronic devices became serious detonators, and therefore only a question of time before said electronic devices became banned.

    So quit your wailing over the loss of a few work hours, or movie watching, or goddamn lost solitaire time, because it’s childish.

    Get over it. This is not going away. Not until every suicidal terrorist is killed, anyway, ie. never.

    And while I have as little time for Gummint as anyone in this room, this is one time where discretion is the better part of productivity.

    Yeah, we’ve lost a little personal freedom. Blame the terrorists, not the Gummint.

  • Daveon


    When “Ahemd” gets that good, a laptop is your last worry – he could also just as easily take soaked pages froma book into the bathroom and build a bomb in the sink. That tech also can be demonstrated and isn’t a figment.

    Frankly, you’re still more likely to suceed with a hold bomb purely from the physics of the mass of explosive needed.

    I don’t mind restrictions, but first let’s profile and certify frequent flyers.

  • Between dirt-scratching savages running around with their hair on fire until they get The Stomp, and Kim’s “Gummint”, it’s a dead cinch who I’d take my chances with. And, it’s pretty damned cute to watch a grown and made man pulling that cover over his head while he’s spitting about others being “childish”.

  • cirby

    Simple fact: it’s simple (with serious financial assistance) to make a bomb wherein the explosives reside inside a sealed container inside the laptop’s battery (with a tiny compartment left for actual battery operation).

    The amount of plastique you could hide in such a pseudo-battery wouldn’t be near enough to take down most planes. A couple of ounces of even the best compositions (like C-4) would punch a hole in the side of the plane, but (as I mentioned before) would have to be a very lucky shot to take down a big jet.

    They tried the “small amount of exposives to blow a hole in the jet” trick once, and it didn’t work, though it did blow a two foot hole in the outside of the plane and killed a passenger sitting in that seat. This was from Operation Bojinka, annd what the bad guys learned from that is that they had to use a lot more explosives than is really practical (pounds instead of ounces).

    If someone wants to put a pound or so of explosives on a modern jet, there are many better ways to do it. Hiding some trivial amount in a laptop (while making sure the laptop still has enough power in the battery to run long enough to get past the checkpoint, clever enough to hide the detonator from x-ray scans, and still be sealed enough to evade explosives sniffers, while being reliable enough to work on demand) is so far beyond their current capabilities that it’s really not worth the effort to plan for it.

  • Dale

    I don’t travel for work any more, but I do take the train 42 minutes each way, every day. I do my sleeping at home and either work on a mathematical monograph, my quantitative analysis class (CQF), or actual work. I don’t see any reason why I shouldn’t do something productive while I’m on that train ride. Sleeping or reading novels is ok for some, but I consider the time to be for work. I like it that way.

    Train rides are for work. If I had to fly all the time, I would have the same opinion, especially as I can’t sleep in airplanes.

    I wonder if memory sticks qualify as “electronic devices”. I expect they will until the organs get a clue-by-four over the head.

  • Dale

    And I forgot to add that it’s at least possible to have a program whereby a laptop could be certified as “safe”.

    I don’t know exactly how this would work, but I think it’s cheaper and possibly more effective that providing laptops on the airplanes.

    Better clean the porn off your laptop…

  • Elaine

    It will be interesting to see if people start sailing rather than flying between Europe & North America. I haven’t flown since I saw a 16 yr old girl being felt up by TSA goons a few years ago. I’ve priced different cruise companies in case I want/need to travel.

  • If you have the time, go Amtrak. I like the train if I’m not in a hurry. It’s cheaper than flying and driving.

  • The current situation on airliners is the natural consequence of not allowing law abiding citizens to fly armed, and a refusal to agressively exclude islamists from our society.

    Western culture is not obligated to commit suicide to give islamists the protection of rights they don’t even believe people posess…

  • Had government left security where it belongs: with the air terminals (air terminals ought to be owned by consortia of airlines, not by government) and the airlines, I’d wager it’d be more intelligently handled by now.

    In parts of the world where governments own the airlines, shame on you!

    Now, security is handled by the marching morons, and this is what we get.

    I don’t fly anymore. I don’t fly anymore on principle, and I won’t until the airline industry finds a way to straighten itself out. The fact that world travel can be brought to its figurative knees by savages who can’t even weave the filthy rags they wear on their heads (to keep the fleas and lice comfortable, one must presume) tells me that the industry is both physically and philosophically ill.

    The terrorists have, for the time being, won.

  • Dave

    The current situation on airliners is the natural consequence of not allowing law abiding citizens to fly armed


    At least when it comes to people trying out bombs.

    Col. Hagan, British Airports are not government owned and haven’t been for quite some time.

  • Kim du Toit

    “The amount of plastique you could hide in such a pseudo-battery wouldn’t be near enough to take down most planes.”

    …unless there are five such laptops on board.

    Billy, I’m not the one with the blanket over my head: you are. You persist in seeing on-flight baggage restrictions as a Gummint plot against your personal freedom, or at best just another example of State ineptitude, aimed at you.

    That’s the problem with anarchists, or, to give them their modern term, radical libertarians: it’s all about themselves.

    Now that’s childish.

    Could the Gummint (all of ’em) be doing a better job of containing the terrorist threat? Sure. I’ve advocated dropping daisycutters on the Iranian and Syrian parliaments and assassinating radical imams for over four years, to mention just two. (At least the Gummints adopted one of my suggestions, except that Saddam is still alive instead of dangling from a rope in Baghdad Square.)

    But all that aside, the fact remains that airline travel is probably the most vulnerable target against the West, as well as a potent symbol of their civilization, and therefore airliners represent the most lip-smacking target available to these pricks.

    As for the choice between “dirt-eating savages” and the State, you’ve missed the point that we’re fighting both. At least I can see where the Gummint’s coming against me personally; but banning onflight laptops is not one of their anti-freedom initiatives, even though the action results in a small — and, as I’ve mentioned above, insignificant — loss of that personal freedom.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and solicit some political advertising for my site in September/October, in clear contravention of the disguting McCain-Feingold law.

    That, at least, is a clear example of the State infringing on my freedom. By comparison, banning onflight laptops is a flea’s ass.

  • Daveon

    unless there are five such laptops on board

    Even then you’d need them in the right places, otherwise you’ll do little damage of consequence, except, perhaps, to the poor sods near the laptops.

    Gathering them in the *right* places without another Richard Reid incident would be practically impossible. It would be easier to use these skills on stuff in the hold.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Thanks for some of the feedback. I’d add that manufacturers of laptops, such as Sony, that make rugged versions for use by folk such as construction engineers, may find demand for their machines raises. Also, if people worry about taking breakable items in their main luggage, suitcase manufacturers should think about making bags that offer more padding, and so forth.

    Anyway, I think it is worthwhile trying to figure out constructive ways to make air travel more fun and valuable in these worrying times, rather than just bitch and moan and submit to the ever-growing intrusiveness of security, which is why I share Billy Beck’s attitude towards Kim. I also think that as well as being right, it is also smart business for the airlines to garner goodwill from customers by trying to offer better services to compensate for the crap that customers are having to put up with right now.

    The airlines that give folk a good time will not be forgotten in the years to come.

  • Daveon

    Johnathan, I think you’ll also see a demand in the other direction. My Sony Vaio TX-2 weighs in at a hefty 1.2kg and is slightly larger than a paperback book, it has 6 hours+ battery and can be used even in an economy aircraft seat with the screen open.

    It will be impossible to hide a meaningful quantity of anything inside the case, and, as such, would be a perfect approved laptop.

    OTOH, looks like things will be easing back to normal tomorrow – although, I’ll have to get used to travelling without toiletaries.

  • “…it’s all about themselves.”

    You’re goddamned right, Kim. What’s your point?

  • Johnathan Pearce

    The impression I get from Kim’s comments is that we should all shrug our shoulders, stand in line and put up with whatever is hurled at us. A craven attitude that comes ill from a man who probably boasts more firearms than the British army.

    The fact is, security measures should not require the sort of humiliating crap now inflicted on passengers, who are paying customers, and airlines, many of which enjoy quasi-monopolistic pricing power in regulated markets, should at the minimum do their bit to make travelling a bit more fun during the current environment. It is called consumer service Kim. You have lived in the States long enough surely to understand that basic point.

  • hardatwork


    I’m not sure you travelled too often to Europe on business.

    Your comment:

    “I might even be inclined to make an exception for people who have to take transatlantic or -pacific flights, because eight hours is a long time not to be “productive” — but not overly long, once you take out the five hours or so for sleep.”

    My last trip from London to San Fran with connection at o’hare took 18 hours (4 hours sitting on tarmac) door-to-door. An undelayed flight from London to San Fran with a huge tail wind will take 10 1/2 hours. To get into the SF time zone (8 hours difference) one basically has to stay awake during the UK daytime flight. I am not aware of many (or any) flights which aren’t daytime out of London.

    Like someone said there needs to be a frequent flyer fast track at the very least. It is the system the US authorities use for freight containers shipped into US.