I'm in a No Fly Zone
I love to travel. However, for the first time in my life I am so glad that I have no plans to go anywhere, any time soon. Why, you ask… the in-flight “terror.” Ever since the British Airways 10 flight explosion plan was foiled Security inanities, inconvenience, hyper-suspicion, fighter jet escort, emergency landing & detentions have become the norm. It’s now a wonder if your flight gets off the ground, reasonably on time & makes it all the way to the destination of choice.
Let’s forget a minute about some of the incidents of the last 2 weeks, inclusive of the toy transmitter that shut down a terminal for 4 hours & the claustrophobic woman that peed in the aisle on the plane bringing fighter jet escorts, & look at the 6 incidents of Friday morn alone.
- On a Continental flight from Argentina that landed in Houston, a bomb sniffing dog discovered dynamite residue on a student’s checked luggage. (The student’s explanation, which is being investigated, was that he was a mine worker who frequently handled explosives on the job.) The Customs area was shut down & the plane that did go on to Connecticut was kept from the terminal as a precaution.
- A utility knife was found on a vacant passenger seat of a U.S. Airways flight traveling from Philadelphia to Bradley International Airport in Connecticut. When the plane arrived at Bradley, state troopers boarded the aircraft, seized the knife as evidence and interviewed passengers. No arrests were made.
- A U.S. Airways jet was diverted to Oklahoma City after a federal air marshal reportedly subdued a passenger who was involved in an incident with a flight attendant, officials said. The nature of the problem between the passenger and the flight attendant. (Maybe he complained that there was NO FOOD on the flight.)
- An American Airlines flight from England to Chicago was forced to land in Bangor, Maine, for security reasons. "The TSA learned of a reported threat to the aircraft while it was en route," TSA spokeswoman Andrea McCauley said. She declined to give further details.
- A Continental Airlines Flight for Bakersfield, Texas, was diverted to El Paso after the crew discovered a missing panel in the lavatory, said Amy von Walter, a Transportation Security Administration spokeswoman. Passengers were screened and interviewed upon landing in El Paso.
- An Aer Lingus flight from New York to Dublin was evacuated Friday morning during a scheduled stopover in western Ireland following a bomb threat that turned out to be unfounded, officials said.
To say that passengers on-board these flights & in the terminals at the respective airports were inconvenienced is understatement. To say that the while in flight the passengers must have been “on edge” is also understatement.
Since passengers now spend an excruciating 90 minutes or more in Security lines, with another random check to make certain that nothing liquid or gel-like has been purchased in the terminal post-Security screening, how do knives, missing bathroom panels, residue on luggage, etc. get missed? The answer should be obvious; too much time is being wasted by TSA workers on minutia like mascara & tubes of lip gloss. And since everyone gets screened equally, the time a screener has to look at you & your carry on luggage amounts to seconds. (Have you ever seen the image on a security scanner? It looks like an X-ray in black & white. We have cell phones that can play movies, but a security screener is still looking at inferior imaging that could prevent disaster.)
I am not suggesting that Security Check-In become even more challenging & laborious. I state that we must get over being Politically Correct & begin PROFILING. Yes, I said it. Once again when we look at the names of 23 suspects in England that were arrested in the thwarted bomb plot, there is not a Smith, Jones, O’Reilly or Johnson among them. They were all men & women under the age of 40 of Middle Eastern descent. (Also note there were no 80 year old grandmothers in wheelchairs either.) Behavioral experts must watch Security lines & extract anyone that acts suspicious or inappropriate. Those persons can then be taken into a private area where a deep search can be conducted. Flight manifests must be studied well in advance to match names against existing terrorist lists, as well as to study any peculiar travel history.
Currently passengers are putting up with the inconveniences. But with almost all the airlines in bankruptcy protection, something has to be done to improve & expedite service at the airport. Passengers, particularly the industry’s bread & butter – the business traveler – will lose patience & find alternate means of transportation. This will particularly impact the short haul flight. (If you calculate that I can drive from Los Angeles to San Fran in 4 ½ hours, why would I pay in pain to spend the same amount of time at the airport?)
Airport & Flight safety is of paramount importance. More security must be applied to cargo & mail that is shipped on the same plane that you & I board. Restrictions to baggage areas must become stricter (particularly now that we can’t carry on many of our valuables & can’t lock our luggage either). And like it or not, greater scrutiny must be given to those from terror sponsored countries. Yes, profiling is an ugly word when it refers to black man in a predominately white neighborhood. But profiling is prudent when it comes to passenger safety.
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I’ve written about Simmons Jannace & Stagg before. Here is another case on which the law firm has done excellent work. With the 5th anniversary of September 11th upon us, it is timely to look at a case concerning a 9/11 widow. As you should know, the September 11th Victims Compensation Fund was created for those who lost loved ones in the attack. The Fund is a no-fault system designed to maximize compensation to the families of victims. Contingency fees by attorneys representing families of the lost were considered unethical. Simmons, Jannace & Stagg was asked by a widow to represent her in connection with a lawsuit filed in federal court by the attorney who represented her before the Victims Compensation Fund. The attorney sought $2,000,000 as a contingency fee. He filed suit in federal court seeking a declaratory judgment entitling him to his fee. It’s always interesting when lawyers sue lawyers. The proceedings can get complicated for the laymen. Simmons, Jannace & Stagg moved to dismiss the federal action, arguing that the Victims Compensation Fund did not provide federal jurisdiction for an action by an attorney seeking to protect his fee. Simmons, Jannace & Stagg also argued that there was no reported case that upheld jurisdiction under the Fund where the issue concerned a private dispute between an attorney and his former client concerning the amount of a legal fee. Additionally they argued that the federal court should abstain because the state Surrogate’s Court had already begun an inquiry into the size of the attorney’s fee. To make a long story short, Simmons, Jannace & Stagg’s argument set legal precedence & they successfully litigated the case.