Do the Security Headlines Concern Flight Attendants?

Airport security checkpoint

It happens every so often, so we’re all familiar with the drill. New intelligence about possible terrorist plot developments against the airlines comes to light; airline and/or airport security policies are updated to (hopefully) confront the alleged terrorist plans. Some of us will be glad that security is “being tightened”; some of us moan about “theater.” As crew, I tend to be in the former group (but I’ll get back to that).

As you’ll certainly know, this week it’s all about the electronic devices. Media across the globe have been scrolling headlines about international passengers not being able to board their flights if their devices won’t power up. Affected passengers are those headed into the US from certain international destinations and all those into and out of Britain.

If you are currently a bit uncertain about what exactly is going on, you’re not alone. For one thing, like many passengers are reporting, I haven’t thus far experienced or witnessed any of the described electronics checks on my flights into the US (as either passenger or crew). While it has been stated that certain airports are of more concern, and the precise list is not being released, it has been publicly confirmed that LHR is on that list, and I have flown out of there as well as another on the list. Furthermore, the UK’s budget carriers Ryanair and easyJet are reported as “not imposing checks.”

With my usual disclaimer that I can’t speak for all crews (it has to be said!), how I feel is that I find the lack of clarity and/or inconsistency in what’s being expected from screening and when, very strange. So I don’t know whether to be concerned at the unusualness itself – which could convince me that they have a rather specific threat here and we just don’t see the full pattern, as the security heads don’t want to tip their full hand – or at the feeling that the effort feels uncoordinated at this point, or concerned at neither.

The important part here is, I definitely feel these headlines and changes when I go to work. I don’t feel nervous about stepping on my planes or anything, but I can’t dismiss them. When I think about a stretch of busy flight months ahead, hopping on and off international flights, they lurk heavy in my peripheral vision. It’s not dramatic, but it’s not a good feeling.

It is part of the job. We know that, accept that, and find a place in our mind to keep any fresh security concerns slotted into a compartment where they won’t get in our way. That’s just professionalism. But don’t think those concerns don’t register.

I’d bet money I’m in the majority among colleagues in at least this much, judging by how alone I was as a crew voice in support of the TSA’s attempt last year to allow small knives on board. (Read: I don’t tend to be among the most on edge.)

I can see it potentially making me less flexible or accommodating than usual when it comes to difficult passengers. Otherwise you wouldn’t see any difference, but it’s a definite extra thing to worry about as I preform my duties. That’s the way it should be, though, given that crews are a thread in the security net ourselves.

And that last sentence is why, even though I think some of you will find any felt concern to be silly, given how ineffective you feel the TSA is and/or what a non-realistic threat terror plots are, I can’t fully join you “there”. I’m open to hearing it – especially because you “security is theater” crowd make some valid points. On some of them, my head will agree! Still, from where I stand in our security briefings and on the planes every day, other parts of me going to work just can’t manage to feel that way.

How about you? Do security alerts and screening changes concern you at all when traveling? Or is it something that you’re able to completely dismiss?

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