I caught a Virgin Blue flight to Melbourne today, and I used their new web check-in service. It’s very clever. You just log onto their website, choose a seat and then print out a boarding pass. Then, at the airport, you simply ignore the massive queue and waltz straight onto the plane.
But what I can’t fathom is the lack of security. If you check in at the counter, you have to show a photo ID. But if you use the web option or for that matter the machines they have that print out your boarding pass there’s no need to show ID at any point. You can just use someone else’ boarding pass. Gee, I wonder if the terrorists have figured out that loophole?
One of the main findings of the 9/11 Commisson other than that George Bush was so incompetent that he shouldn’t have been elected President of the slow learner’s class in high school, let alone the United States was that there was a deficiency in the watch-list process. Mohammed Atta and his bomber buddies simply should not have been allowed on those planes, given the suspicions some law enforcement agencies had about them.
What’s our equivalent of the watch-list system? A button on the website saying Are you carrying dangerous goods, where you have to select yes or no. Sure, terrorists are willing to blow up hundreds of other people, but there’s no way they’d do something illegal like lie to a website.
Nor, for that matter, would they dare to just take a boarding pass from a buddy who should have pressed a button marked I’m not carrying dangerous goods, but the Al Qaeda operative I’m giving this boarding pass to sure as hell will.
The solution couldn’t be more obvious instead of being required to show our ID at the check-in counter, they should make us show it at the gate itself. That’s what you have to do at airports in Europe, not to mention many international flights everywhere. Not exactly rocket science.
Contrast this with the ridiculous lengths gone to to ensure that you don’t take even the most innocuous metal object – even a screwdriver – onto a flight. What could be more straightforward – or important – than ensuring that the passengers boarding a plane aren’t known bad guys?
Sure, there may be some brilliant high-tech retina-scanning gear going on that we’re not even aware of. I’m happy to be corrected, and told that ASIO really does have everything under control. But I doubt it.
Virgin Blue has lots of signs up saying that security is no laughing matter, and once detained a friend of mine for some time after he made an ill-advised crack about a bomb. But the reality is that their automated system, while convenient, makes security a joke.