December 17, 2003
not something we can trifle with
On December 9, I flew to Dallas from San
Francisco, on United Airlines, having been upgraded to
the front of the plane. Flying along at 30,000 or so feet,
I became anxious and alarmed to be watching first three
and then as many as four fellow travelers collect in the
area directly behind the cockpit door, waiting to use
After 9/11, it seemed to me that everyone
was aware that having more than one person in that area
was risky. Flight attendants and pilots requested, strongly,
that one person approach the bathroom area at a time.
When I confronted the flight attendant,
he assured me that he was watching and he knew things
were OK. Another flight attendant assured me that this
procedure was at the discretion of the head flight attendant.
How soon we forget. In a little over two
years, are we returning to our casual ways, and on airlines,
no less? What kind of integrity for travel safety is this?
Those who have traveled recently know
the security process inside the airline terminals is certainly
cumbersome. Whether or not it is effective will be determined
over the longer term.
Painstaking and time-consuming as might
be, few grumbles are heard. Security and safety are the
purpose of the processes. Maintaining the integrity of
safety is crucial for regaining the trust and confidence
But when flying at hundreds of miles per
hour toward one's destination, with only the flight
crew to protect the traveler, it is even more important
to know the policies, understand how they apply to each
fellow traveler, and then see the procedures consistently
Incidents, such as the one you describe,
must be reported to the airlines. Even if it is a one-time
error in judgment, it is potentially dangerous to the
travelers and to the reputation for safety and security.
Maintaining our vigilance is critical,
not simply for the short term, but for the longer term
as well. When airline organizations accept travel dollars,
adding surcharges for security, it is not out of the question
to expect them to care about security and safety, 100
per cent of the time.
When casual behavior replaces professionalism
and competence, then lives could be endangered unnecessarily.
Is our society being lulled into a false
sense of security that could backfire? What did we learn
from 9/11? Naïve confidence that evolves into complacency
can lead to disaster.
Today's traveler is asking the airlines for little
more than integrity in all aspects of their encounters
with the providers of transportation, especially air travel:
Courtesy and appreciation, along with
competitive pricing; competency and professionalism between
and among all participants in the delivery system, from
the curbside assistants to the food and drink suppliers;
and safety and security in all areas related to travel
(clear and intelligent procedures, carried out consistently).
When the integrity of safety and security
are perceived as at risk and are not guaranteed consistently
by each and every airline, nervous and insecure customers
may become even more reluctant to fly. These frustrations
and fears could fuel more governmental restrictions and
More costly demands might be placed upon
the airlines, making a complicated system - already way
too close to financial ruin - an even bigger potential
financial burden for those who are currently feeling already
heavily taxed for previous airline bailouts.
Integrity requires that airlines fulfill
the promises of courtesy, competency and especially security.