Integrity Matters
December 17, 2003

Security's not something we can trifle with

Question: (E-081)

Dear Jim:

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 the restroom.

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 of travelers.

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 implemented.

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 rules.

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.

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