May 31, 2014
HERE IN BOSTON last week, five airline workers — ground staff at Logan International Airport — were arrested on charges of smuggling nearly half a million dollars of drug money through employee checkpoints, using their credentials to bypass TSA security.
Four of the five were JetBlue employees. One of them, according to the allegations, had agreed to carry a firearm into a secure area of the airport.
I bring this up for no other reason than it so pungently underscores one of airport security’s most ridiculous protocols — namely, the fact that tarmac workers are exempt from TSA screening, while pilots and flight attendants are not.
That’s correct. For the past thirteen years, pilots and flight attendants have been forced to undergo to the same tedious and intrusive screening as passengers, while baggage handlers, cleaners, mechanics, caterers and the like, all of whom have access to aircraft, have been able to saunter through unmanned checkpoints, subjected only to occasional random screening.
In an earlier article I called this TSA’s “dirty little secret,” though really there’s nothing secret about it. It’s just that you never hear about it. What ought to be a scandalous story has gone all but unmentioned by the press and media — possibly because it sounds so outrageous that reporters are loath to believe it.
I assure you it’s true.
It’s an absurd double standard that undermines pretty much everything we’ve been told about the supposed importance of screening crewmembers. And there are two directions to take it: should we increase screening of apron workers, or decrease the scrutiny of pilots and flight attendants?
I mean no disrespect to the tens of thousands of honest and hardworking ground staff out there, but let’s be truthful: which is the potential higher-risk employee group when it comes to crime or terrorism, airline pilots or apron workers? Over the past several years, dozens of ground employees have been charged with drug smuggling, weapons and currency smuggling, and other crimes carried out on airport property. Pilots? Flight attendants?
At many airports, so-called Known Crew Member (KCM) checkpoints are now operational, allowing uniformed flight and cabin crew to bypass the normal TSA rigmarole. That’s a welcome change, but the fact that it took over a decade for this program to get going is an embarrassment. And we still have to stand at a kiosk while a guard fusses with our passports and ID cards, while somewhere downstairs those ramp workers simply swipe their badges at an electronic door or turnstile.
IN UNRELATED NEWS, also last week the renowned graphic designer Massimo Vignelli passed away at age 83.
Unfortuantely for Vignelli, he lived just long enough to witness the ruination of what was perhaps his greatest work: the famous “AA” emblem of American Airlines.
I’ve ranted about the disastrous new American logo before, but I can’t let it go. Each time I see one of the newly painted jets I wince.
It was once said of Vignelli’s work: “If you do it right, it will last forever.”
Alas, not necessarily. The old AA, among the last true icons of airline identity, was certainly done right. That didn’t stop the airline from killing it.