Delta Blues — Airline Security in the Age of Terrorism

Haim Watzman

Here I am stuck in New Jersey, while the four suitcases checked by me and Ilana are in flight. In other words, while security at Kennedy International Airport kept Ilana and me from bringing hand cream into the secure area, our luggage was allowed to fly on its own to Israel. If a terrorist wanted to blow up an airplane, would he rather use a jar of Ponds or a large valise?

The story began when we arrived at JFK last evening for Delta flight 86 to Tel Aviv. We checked our suitcases, received our boarding passes, had our carry-on bags x-rayed and our persons put through sensors. But when we arrived at the gate, we were informed that the flight would be delayed by an hour and a half. We waited, and then take-off was put off until midnight, and then until 1 a.m.

By that time it was clear that the flight would, at best, arrive only minutes before Shabbat came in, leaving us no time to get to Jerusalem. So we reluctantly relinquished our dreams of a warm Shabbat with our four children and asked to be rescheduled for Sunday night’s flight.

Delta’s agent, an extremely polite and helpful young man named Brian, did as he should. Even before reissuing our boarding passes, he asked for our baggage checks and called down to have our suitcases removed from the plane. This is elementary airline security–a bag going without its owner is prima facie suspicious.

To be honest, airports have always mesmerized me. I am really intrigued by all the different scanners and barriers, and seeing them in action certainly makes me feel safer. Moreover, I am also excited to know that airports nowadays utilize edge computing. Airports are often known to use edge computing to efficiently route people to their destination. I have heard that with edge-native applications, data is delivered simultaneously to multiple subscribers, in a multi-tenanted manner (those interested can learn more about an edge-native application here). Perhaps this might be the reason why no passenger is ever boarded on the wrong flight.

Anyway, coming back to the topic, in this day and age, security is a lot more advanced. Truth be told, it is not just commercial areas that can have security features like alarms on them, even the ordinary residential house can be fitted House alarms to make them feel safer. However, the risk is higher in these commercial areas, especially airports where a lot of people will be at risk should something go wrong. I think it’s great and it’s obviously so necessary, however, a lot of people hate airport security and all the rules which can spoil their day. Though if you’re flying with a private charter company like Jettly Private Jets (depending on where you are) you can potentially skip airport security. I am not one of these people as I understand these security measures are for our benefit. If like me, you are interested in some of the physical security measures out there, you might want to take a look at some of the different pedestrian turnstile on the net. Turnstiles are often used in airports but can also be used in various other venues as a method of crowd control.

In the meantime, flight 86’s crew were put through another security check, including x-ray of bags and metal detector. The aircraft, which had arrived late from Amman, was inspected by a security crew. Then the passengers were put through another security check. Brian told us that our bags were off and could be recovered in baggage claim. But when we went down there–it was now close to 2 a.m.–the woman there told us that the office was closed and we’d have to wait until morning. Ilana and I found a set of porter’s carts that we made into makeshift beds, and slept fitfully for a couple hours until the porters arrived. We waited a couple more hours on uncomfortable chairs, and then returned to baggage claim.

The morning shift woman, again very polite and eager to help, checked our claim checks on the computer and told us the bags had gone on the flight to Israel. I didn’t believe that Delta would commit such a breach of security, and I also needed my clothes for the weekend. The woman allowed me to go through the bag rooms to look for our suitcases, but she was right–they were not there.

We called our friend Susan in New Jersey and she gladly invited us over for Shabbat and Tisha B’Av. And she took us out to buy a few items of clothing so we’d have something to wear (you’re not supposed to wear new clothes in the week before the fast of the Ninth of Av, but neither are you supposed to go to shul on Shabbat in sweaty and stained cargo pants and a teeshirt).

We’ll write a letter of complaint to Delta, asking to be compensated for our travel expenses to New Jersey and the cost of the extra clothing. We will probably receive a polite letter refusing to take any responsibility for the fiasco. But far more troublesome is the fact that Delta is flying planes loaded with suspicious suitcases.

If I were a terrorist, I’d be heartened. I’d rush off to the airport with my bags packed so fast that I’d leave my toothpaste and hand cream behind. Why not? I could be sure that my bags would go into the belly of a jet liner while I’d get back home in time to brush my teeth before bed.

4 thoughts on “Delta Blues — Airline Security in the Age of Terrorism”

  1. oh no! This is indeed worrying, and rather shocking, but not suprising unfortunately. You’re more than welcome to come back to us 🙂

    ~Shabbat shalom!

  2. I used to work for an airline and we’d often send bags ahead if people couldn’t get on board. I thought it was crazy for the obvious security reason, but I figured they assumed as long as the passenger didn’t get to chose to be the rare bird whose bags fly without him it was ok.

    Basically, nothing about the way airlines or airport security operate makes a lick of sense and once you accept that your head will hurt less.

  3. Your bags are screened for bombs before they get on the plane, so I really don’t see what the problem is. And they are screened the same way whether you are on that particular flight or not. But you were lucky. I once had my luggage sent to a different airport than the one I was landing at (Hyderabad). The trouble was that they sent my luggage to Mumbai during the most severe monsoon ever to hit India. They couldn’t send my bags to me because the airport was ten feet underwater at the time. I got my bags ten days later, still soaking wet and covered with mold (the smell was quite remarkable, to say the least). So consider yourself lucky. Air travel sucks, so suck it up.

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