British Air Boss Points Out That Removing Your Shoes At Airport Security Is Silly

from the um,-duh dept

For years now, we’ve put up with absolutely ridiculous security theater in airports around the globe, and while almost everyone who flies knows it’s a joke, you never seem to hear anyone who actually works in the airliner business point this out. However, the head of British Airways apparently is now pointing out how ridiculous these security measures are, most of which are driven by US demands (even though the US doesn’t always follow the demands it makes on foreign airport security within the US). He’s hoping that foreign airports will start pushing back on these demands:

There was no need to “kowtow to the Americans every time they wanted something done”, said Broughton. “America does not do internally a lot of the things they demand that we do. We shouldn’t stand for that. We should say ‘we’ll only do things which we consider to be essential and that you Americans also consider essential’.”

The remarks, reported in the Financial Times, were not disputed by BA. No one wanted weak security, Broughton said, but added: “We all know there’s quite a number of elements in the security programme which are completely redundant and they should be sorted out.”

These included the requirement to remove footwear, brought in after British “shoe bomber” Richard Reid hid explosives in his trainers on a flight from Paris to Miami in December 2001, and differing approaches to checking laptops and other equipment.

“Take the iPad, they still haven’t decided if it is a laptop or it isn’t a laptop. So some airports think you should take it out and some think you shouldn’t,” Broughton said.

It would be nice if others started speaking up as well, and maybe we can actually move away from such wasteful security theater.

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Companies: british airways

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Comments on “British Air Boss Points Out That Removing Your Shoes At Airport Security Is Silly”

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Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Wel, Duh.

“Ah. So you’ve been watching what amounts to a the “Republican Rebranding Effort” on TV?”

Meh. All I’ve seen is a bunch of independently idiotic folks labeling themselves “The Tea Party” and basically running around making asses of themselves.

Note to tea partiers: your candidates suck and are kind of crazy. You want Washington outsiders in office? Hey, I’m all with you. But Christine O’Donnell makes me pine for a good old Monarchy….

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Wel, Duh.

If “do whatever you want” means “we’ll bail your asses out once you shipwreck yourselves” then yes.

As it turned out “do whatever you want” meant “take the savings of half the population hostage and then say ‘bail us out or else'”.

The govenrment should have been smart enough to protect the savings of the population without protecting the hostage takers.

Michael Long (profile) says:

Re: Re: Wel, Duh.

“The National Transportation Safety Board reported that the flight impacted at 563 miles per hour (906 km/h) at a 40 degree nose-down, inverted attitude. The impact left a crater eight to ten feet deep, and 30 to 50 feet wide. All 44 people died. The plane fragmented upon impact.”

Ever seen what’s left of a steel-bodied reinforced car after it hits a tree at a measly 55mph?

Now image a large aluminum tube hitting the ground at ten times that speed…

Matt Polmanteer (profile) says:


I recently was first hand witness to how worthless these security checks actually are. I went through security no problems and then I got to my gate and their wasn’t anyone at the gate and my flight was delayed. I decided to go back out and went to the check-in counter to change planes. This time when I went back through security they pulled my bag off to the side and throughly searched it because apparently my power cord must have shifted and looked menacing now.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Security

And you presume this because you’re a trained security expert? Or should they have remembered you from your first time through, and since you seem nice, you wouldn’t be the type to bring something in the 2nd time you didn’t have the 1st time?

First, indeed something in your bag may have shifted. If the first time through they could tell it was a cord, not connected to anything, great. Maybe the 2nd time it was lying over something which obscured it, and it couldn’t clearly be identified as a power cord. It also depends on what else you have in the bag in proximity to it that might have been deemed a threat.

Many common items can appear identical to threat items (cheese, peanut butter, toothpaste, etc.) and wiring in close proximity to them would warrant a check. Would you rather have them check your bag needlessly, or not check a bag that actually contained a bomb because it might have been a power cord and a block of cheese?

Second, maybe the first time you went through, someone else was having their bag checked (it’s called a “random check”, and it’s perfectly legal) even though there was no threat seen. The next time through, you might have been selected for a “random check”.

Conducting random checks does several things. A potential bomber with a concealed bomb who knows that he might be subject to a random check may not decide to chance sneaking the bomb through a checkpoint (there are easier ways to get it on a plane). Or they may chance it anyway, have it concealed really well, so that it isn’t discerned on the x-ray, but the secondary random check of the actual bag may discover it.

But of course, you know all this, because you’re a security expert, right?

interval (profile) says:

How to Do Airport Security

A 1 Day seminar of all TSA officials at Ben Gurion International and all this nonsense would just go away. Assuming the TSA officials aren’t as stupid as they appear to be. I agree with Europe; making old ladies and children remove their shoes for inspection is ridiculous. That’s not security. IDF soldiers with automatic weapons trained in what to look for and who to pick out of a line for a ticket; that’s security.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: How to Do Airport Security

Please! Israeli security is lax and overrated. Having firsthand observed their techniques at JFK for Homeland Security, I know that they’re sloppy, and rely more on profiling non-jewish passengers and trusting that no jew would attempt anything on their airline.

Searched items are handed back to passengers, who could then easily insert something that had been concealed on their person into the bag, which isn’t checked again.

They also over-use ETD swipes, potentially removing trace evidence by repeatedly swiping an item too many times.

TasMot (profile) says:

And, it really is about the safety of the Planes not People

So, for the last 13 years I’ve been a travelling consultant pretty much flying to client sites every Monday and home again on Thursday or Friday. Recently, it came to my attention because of a long security line (and no “go to the front of the line pass that day”) and just staring around at anything that caught my eye, that this security theater isn’t even about the safety of the travelers after all. Before passing through the “look at you naked” box, you have to dispose of all of those dangerous bombs in the trashcan. Now maybe I have been watching too many movies, but from what I recall, if there is a suspected bomb everyone should clear the area and the suspected item should be moved to a safe area and defused by a bomb squad. I can’t imagine why a rational person would think, “Hey, let’s put ALL of those suspected bombs into one huge plastic trashcan, all together, to provide a safe environment for all of the hundreds of people standing in the long security line taking all of their clothes off (I mean being security scanned)”.

Nope, the only slight margin of safety is the slightly decreased possibility of a plane getting blown up. I mean, have you seen them? The 33 gallon sized trash can of bottles of banned materials: water, soda, deodorant, shaving cream and toothpaste, right next to a very long line of irritated travelers waiting to pass through the “naked body scanner”? All that potentially dangerous material piled together, ready to be detonated as soon as the bad guys get far enough away to be safe.

That is definitely NOT for my safety (and I truly can’t believe that the couple of dozen TSA workers will be any safer than me). I just hope I’m not in line the day the “non-government terrorists” figure this out.

Chargone (profile) says:

Re: And, it really is about the safety of the Planes not People

isn’t most of that stuff considered dangerous mostly due to pressurization issues?
at least, that was my understanding. I’ll admit i don’t really travel and thus actually have no idea, but that would seem to amount to the bing being perfectly fine so long as it doesn’t actually go on a plane…
(or, for some substances, as long as no one’s stupid enough to set it on fire…)

teka (profile) says:

Re: Re: And, it really is about the safety of the Planes not People


before the “Big Liquid Explosive Scare!!!!” i traveled with plenty of sealed containers in my carryon. perfectly safe.

And even since, at every airport i have ever visited, there are shops Inside the secure zone where you can buy All The Same Things that you just threw out in the magical liquid-bomb-defusing trashcans.

Those “security” measures of taking off shoes, throwing out baby formula, storing all your toiletries in special bags of special sizes.. it is the very epitome of security theater.

Bottle of Dr Pepper from home = Terror Death Device
Bottle of Dr Pepper from the concourse store 30 feet past security = 100% safe.

all theater.. and you are paying for that ticket with tax money (and in higher air travel costs as well)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: And, it really is about the safety of the Planes not People

> Bottle of Dr Pepper from home = Terror Death Device
> Bottle of Dr Pepper from the concourse store 30 feet past security = 100% safe.

ummm, you are kind of missing the point. That should be:
Bottle of Dr Pepper that contains liquid explosives from home = Terror Death Device
Bottle of Dr Pepper that contains soda from the concourse store = 100% safe


ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 And, it really is about the safety of the Planes not People

Bottle of Dr Pepper that contains liquid explosives from home = Terror Death Device

I know you are trolling, but as others have mentioned, the bottle of Dr. Pepper from home is placed in a trash can within a couple feet of a long and busy security line, where the resulting explosion will kill more than would on an airplane at 30,000 feet.

Also, the same unopened bottle of Dr. Pepper which is turned over to security, which then takes it into the secure zone down to the employee’s lunch area and any employee who wants can then take it and drink it. You may think I am kidding, but I travel a lot as part of my job, and on more than a few occasions I’ve heard travelers tell the TSA folks that they have an unopened bottle of water that they do not want to throw away, and have watched TSA employees tell them that they would take the bottle down to the lunch room so that it wasn’t wasted.

What TSA practices is Security Theater…there is no point to their rules except to make the general public who doesn’t know any better feel safe. And taking an unopened bottle past the security zone to the employees lunch area is not a good idea…if you consider it to be dangerous, then the correct place to put it is in a bomb/hazardous material disposal system located far away from the general public.

Jean says:

Steak knife

In 2004, I boarded a plane from Washington to Paris. Airport security took a paper knife I had mistakenly left in my hand baggage. Then I embarked and took a seat in first class for work reasons, so I was about two meters from the pilot cabin. After the plane took off, they gave me a steak for dinner with a steak knife. That made me skeptical about flight security.

NullOp says:


Everyone should arrive at the airport clad only in the Tyvek suit they were sent, sans undies. No luggage! You can get anything you need where you are going. This would save millions in security personnel and equipment. If you don’t agree with these requests you are welcome to find alternate means of transportation.

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Shoes

Everyone should arrive at the airport clad only in the Tyvek suit they were sent, sans undies. No luggage!

Actually, I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and I think what they need to do is have all travelers arrive at the airport and enter into “sleeping containers”, where each individual takes a sleeping pill and enters an area no larger than a coffin (those with claustrophobia can be knocked out before entering sleeping capsule,) and then nitrous oxide or some other sort of agent is used to knock out the whole group of travelers. Then everyone is loaded like luggage into the plane. Flight attendants become trained anesthesiologists, and remain on board to monitor all travelers. Flight gets where it is going, and then travelers are revived at the destination. I see three big benefits for the airlines: no additional sundries required (no food, in flight newspapers/entertainment, and no bathrooms,) no difficulties arising from travelers having problems with rules, and if the plane crashes, no worry about any traveler being awake during the crash (families know their loved one was asleep when they died.)

For the travelers, they will be fully rested and ready when they are revived…I cannot sleep on a plane anyway, and those 23 hour flights would be great for me since I wouldn’t need two days to recover afterwards.

Anonymous Coward says:

The main problem with this security theater is that while the current checks, when properly done, should assure that little gets through the checkpoint (we used to also do more gate checks, which invariably turned up items that had made it through the checkpoint, but they’ve cut way down on that, because Lord knows we don’t need that added layer of security, despite the fact that it worked), there are a LOT easier ways to get something on a plane. Most airport employees do NOT pass through security checkpoints, yet have access to secure areas of the airport. Many of these are foreign nationals, in low paying, thankless jobs. It would be very easy to pay one of them to bring an item inside the secure area, where you could pick it up to bring it on your flight, with no security check whatsoever. If we really want to secure airports, EVERYONE needs to be searched when entering the secure area, not just passengers.

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