The weekend brought a trip to Sea-Tac from Oakland for 747-8 first flght coverage. As it happens, I had my first experience with X-ray security screening, first at OAK and then, on the return leg, at SEA.
Some initial observations:
In both cases my time in the security line was at least doubled. This is not a fast procedure so plan accordingly.
You are given the option of a pat-down rather than going through X-ray screening. I did not observe anyone taking the pat-down option.
Still, whether you are actually directed to go through the X-ray screening line is random. At SEA I was simply pointed to proceed through an old fashioned metal detector beep-check. But at OAK I went through the hands-above-your-head X-ray.
Regardless, your overall wait-time was not affected much; the mere presence of X-ray screening slows security lines for everyone.
Since you cannot be sure which way you’ll be sent, you need to prepare for the full X-ray screening.
That means taking EVERYTHING out of your pockets and your belt off. (This may be easier for women since their stuff is likely to be in a purse).
With normal metal-detection, I didn't worry abour removing simple things like a lip balm (plastic case) or a plastic comb. I concentrated on stuff that might set off the beeper -- car keys, pens, coins, wallet… I don't even bother removing my belt for a metal detector because it does not have a big buckle, or my wrist watch, for that matter.
But for the X-ray, remember to take it all off or the TSA attendant will have to tell you to, which slows your progress.
Having more stuff to put on afterwards lengthens everyone’s time collecting their stuff from the baggage X-ray conveyor belt.
The conveyor belt wait is further slowed if even experienced travelers screw up with the new X-ray screening procedures. If they do, it means they don't clear the lanes quickly, which means their luggage and plastic bins are left to pile up on the conveyor belt, which means ... you get the idea.
As usual in a society where everything has to be explained ad nauseam, I noted the endlessly repeating explanations that the TSA screeners are not a bunch of voyeurs and that X-ray invasion won't cause you to keel over.
Damn, I so wanted to be able to file a worker’s compensation claim….
In Seattle, there was even a video to explain all this. The star was none other than TSA Chief John Pistole. The presentation was government high tech, including seamless in-and-out screen views -- a head shot one second, a full body view the next. It made him look like a TV anchor. A stern TV anchor since his job is to save lives.
I kept remembering that Mr. Pistole is the government official who said that if people don’t’ like screening there are other alternatives for travel.
Yeah, right. Tell that to the road warriors scarfing down one more quick-bite as they wait for one more connecting flight on one more cross-country trip to see one more client, attend one more conference or try to look for one more way to make a buck in an economy with 9% unemployment. Or, for that matter, tell it to the hotels, resorts and restaurants who depend on leisure travelers.
Commercial air travel isn’t a necessity in a 21st century post-industrialized nation. It’s merely an alternative with increasingly longer security lines.
I observed that everyone around me seemed oblivious to this incessant blather.
I couldn't help but think how noisy airport terminals are, not from people talking or jet engines but PA blasts. I particularly find the reminders that "cars left unattended in the front of the terminal will be ticketed and towed" to be helpful when I'm standing in the boarding line.
Is there a general assumption that everyone in America has the brains of a cauliflower?
At any rate, cauliflower heads, remember that the process of getting on the airplane is now likely to take a bit longer.