Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Airport Security: A clever Marketing Exercise

Security is always about trade offs. If I want to get to my destination I will put up with the impositions of removing shoes, stripping laptops in and out of their bags, handing over my bottle of water. And tolerate people handling me in a way that would earn them a quick uppercut to the jaw and a call to the police if they tried the same behaviour in a shopping mall.

There is nothing that convinces me all this imposition is helping keep us safe. Explain how it is that having liquids limited to 100ml and placed in a small plastic bag is helping the cause? The best it is all doing is giving the travelling public some assurance that somebody in authority is doing something. But there is no question it is simply mistaking activity for progress. And of course helping position those authorities so they can argue that they were doing everything they could, should something ever goes wrong.

Which is highly unlikely. An aircraft accident is more likely to kill us than the act of someone taking an aircraft down with a bomb disguised as VO5. And being killed in an accident is less likely than dying in an automobile accident. Indeed, to put that likelihood in perspective about 45,000 Americans kill themselves each year in car accidents. We don’t limit what is loaded into our cars, and who climbs into them! And to put 45,000 automobile accident deaths into context consider this - assuming there are 250 passengers in a 747, there would have to be 180 747 accidents a year, or 3.5 a week. Imagine 3-4 747 accidents a week in the US alone. We say that is ridiculous. The public would not tolerate it. Of course not. But the likelihood of a terrorist strike is even less than accidents suggested here - yet we put up with the stupidity of the security madness at airports so we can all feel comfortable about going through the security motions. But there is no additional protection that I can see. Can anyone else? What are we trading off – not improved security, that is for sure. We are all kidding ourselves. But I am not sure why. Maybe we are just so desperate to get to the other end that the end justifies any means.

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