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In Defense of the Airlines


Would you really rather sacrifice your safety for your time?


In November 2009, US airlines set an on-time record with 88.6% flights arriving as originally scheduled. As seen here, United Airlines (UAUA) had the highest of all US airlines with an on-time rate of 92.6%. The 88.6% on-time rate for all US flights is the highest since September of 2002, as reported by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

And then there's the recession.

As passengers become more and more irate with delays caused by "over-security," airlines will be forced to absorb the losses from vacation cancellations.

"A 1% drop in demand would be equal to a revenue hit of more than $1 billion, and because airlines are so highly leveraged, nearly all of that would come off their profit bottom lines," analyst Vaughn Cordle at AirlineForecasts told USA Today.

Airlines are faced with another dilemma: Relax security measures in order to please the client, but risk another terrorist attack? Or they increase security, protecting the client base, but risk losing them due to delays and various "inconveniences"?

The American Civil Liberties Union confronts the new safety measures by claiming that it's an invasion of privacy, acting as a "virtual strip search". They argue that terrorists will "easily" evade these body scanners and that "security is never absolute and never will be."

So basically we should just give up?

Michael Chertoff, secretary of homeland security from 2005 to 2009, responds to the argument:

In deploying the machines, the TSA has strictly limited the number of officers who see the images; separates the officers looking at images from the passengers being screened (so the officers do not know which passengers the images belong to); and uses software to blur the faces on the images -- further protecting the anonymity of passengers. Moreover, the machines are configured to prevent TSA officers from storing or retaining any images. As an additional measure, passengers can choose not to walk through one of the machines and receive a physical examination instead.

The fact is, airlines must take precaution to guarantee the safety of their passengers no matter what the cost.

But as arguments have been made in the past over cell phones and computers, people have questioned whether the exposure to radiation in airport scanners can cause cancer and other harmful effects.

A study by the American College of Radiology concluded it can't.

According to the researchers, one regular chest X-ray at the doctor's office is equivalent to more than 1,000 airport scans in a single year. The study explains that "the backscatter X-ray technology only exposes a traveler to an amount of radiation that is comparable to two short minutes of being on an airplane at 30,000 feet."

So anyone willing to fly should be physically willing to take the X-ray on topic of radiation, unless they're hiding something.

If you're still upset, ask yourself this: As a passenger would you rather sacrifice your safety for your time or your time for your safety? It seems the latter would be the wiser choice.

No positions in stocks mentioned.
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