Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Absurdity of Flying

I guess it is almost a cliche to complain about the airlines. But I can't help it. I'm still jet lagged.

Kos links to a great piece on how freaking stupid TSA security regulations are. Why do we have to take our shoes off? This is incredibly dumb. Nobody is going to be lighting shoe bombs on planes. For that matter, no one is going to be hijacking planes anymore. Why not? Because who would let them live? Who would not sacrifice their own lives rather than let the plane be flown into a building? If you are going to die, die honorably. And I think virtually every person in the country believes the same thing.

That doesn't mean we don't need security. But we need smart security. Forcing people to take their shoes off is not smart security. Putting liquids in 3 oz. containers is just idiotic. First of all, 3 oz. of a lot of liquids is plenty to blow something up if that is what you want to do. Second, no one is actually checking what those liquids are. They can be labeled as one thing and in reality be an explosive device.

Meanwhile, in the most predictable move ever, the airlines are not cutting any of their new fees after the price of jet fuel has plummeted in the last 2 months. And they probably never will. I understand that they lost a tremendous amount of money over the past 2 years. And I think they need to make some of that back. But these fees are never going away. On a basic level, I don't mind a few fees. If you are checking 2 bags that each weigh 50 pounds, well, maybe you should pay more than I do with my 15 pound bag. But if we can't take liquids on planes, it is impossible to get away with no paying a baggage fee. This is utterly unfair. There should be no fee on a first bag in any circumstance. If you need to raise rates, just raise them.

The only thing that could roll back some of these fees is a Democratic government, which could threaten regulation if the airlines don't start playing fair. The Republicans certainly will never do anything, as they don't care about consumers. New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez is starting to raise a stink about this and I think other Democrats will hop on board. First, it is politically popular to do so. Second, it is the right thing to do, especially if fuel prices remain low.