A Small Breath of Sanity in Airline Regs

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The New York Times reports, “U.S. Will Allow Most Types of Lighters on Planes

Federal aviation authorities have decided to stop enforcing a two-year-old rule against taking cigarette lighters on airplanes, concluding that it was a waste of time to search for them before passengers boarded.

The ban was imposed at the insistence of Congress after a passenger, Richard Reed, tried to ignite a bomb in his shoe in 2001 on a flight from Paris to Miami.

Lawmakers said that if Mr. Reid had used a lighter, instead of matches, he might have been able to ignite the bomb, but Kip Hawley, assistant secretary for the Transportation Security Administration, said in an interview on Thursday that the ban had done little to improve aviation security because small batteries could be used to set off a bomb.

Matches have never been prohibited on flights.

“Taking lighters away is security theater,” Mr. Hawley said. “It trivializes the security process.”

The policy change, which is to go into effect on Aug. 4, applies to disposable butane lighters, like Bics, and refillable lighters, like Zippos. Torch lighters, which have thin, hotter flames, will continue to be banned.

Security officers have been collecting some 22,000 lighters a day nationwide, slowing down lines at check points. Even so, many smokers had found ways to sneak lighters through checkpoints, often by placing more than one in a carry-on bag. Disposing of the seized lighters has cost about $4 million a year.

By lifting the ban, Mr. Hawley said, security officers could spend more time looking for bombs or bomb parts. “The No. 1 threat for us is someone trying to bring bomb components through the security check point,” he said. “We don’t want anything that distracts concentration from searching for that.”

Three cheers for them learning! I can only hope that the stupid liquids ban will fall next. We know that we’ve trained people to be efficient at finding water bottles over finding bombs, even when they’re in the same bag.

4 thoughts on “A Small Breath of Sanity in Airline Regs

  1. The ban was imposed at the insistence of Congress after a passenger, Richard Reed, tried to ignite a bomb in his shoe in 2001 on a flight from Paris to Miami.

    What?!?! The “insistence of Congress”? I don’t think so. I applaud a TSA official for having a clue and using the phrase “security theatre” but I don’t think Congress insisted on this. This was just another knee jerk reaction from the TSA. Nice try trying to deflect the blame.

  2. Curiously, the other day I paid cash for an international ticket. No name required. I’m not even limited to that routing …. but might have to pay more.
    The difference: it’s a train! Even after Madrid, and London, it seems that security theatre is closely contained to flights. Why is that?

  3. I recently bought train tickets in Madrid (out of the station that was bombed) and our bags had to go through a scanner, but there wasn’t any other check.

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