Were your holiday travels affected by the new TSA security measures?
Yes, they certainly were.
I spent Christmas in Jamaica at the Riu Ocho Rios resort. It was fantastic. Beautiful beaches, wonderful people, perfect temperature, delicious food, and quality entertainment. We had a wonderful time.
Our trip lasted from Monday through Friday--the day after the panty-bomber attack. We packed our gear, took bus to the airport and joined the herds of people checking in to fly out. We went through the standard customs procedures and then security. My brother learned a valuable lesson: Although you are allowed to bring back duty free Jamaican rum, you can not take it through security. Rum purchased outside the secure area needs to be packed in your checked baggage or it will be confiscated at security (I assume to be re-sold at the airport liquor store). His rum was taken and he had to buy more at the store on the other side of security.
The actual security checkpoint was not much different from security at any US airport. We got through fairly quickly. Once we got to our gate, we learned that we would be patted down and our carry-on luggage would be dissected before we could board the plane. A woman was assigned to pat everyone down and her job description apparently includes a little squeeze on the tush. Next, we emptied our carry ons for inspection to include turning on lap top computers (mine, but not my son's) and removing dangerous items like my mom's emergency sewing kit (we assume they did not want anyone sewing anything into their underwear while in flight). Note, my wife has a concealed-carry purse and they did not check it thoroughly, and we were not feeling to confident about the additional screenings, but they did get mom's sewing kit.
The flight started out fine once everybody was able to get on board. The flight was approximately 3.5 hours and we left about 20 minutes late. We were concerned that our flight delay would impact our connecting flight. About two hours into the flight, the lead attendant announced that, in accordance with new TSA regulations, we would begin arrival procedures an hour before the flight would land. That meant that no one would be allowed to use the restroom in the last hour of the flight and seat backs and tray tables would have to be raised to their upright positions.
I don't know what these measures had to do with the panty-bomber incident. He was not in the bathroom, not standing up, and not reclined when he blew his privates off.
Of course, the attendant's announcement motivated about 30 people to stand up and crowd the aisle waiting for their turn to use the restroom. If that was supposed to make us safer, I think it failed miserably. I had to wonder if the TSA had even reviewed the panty-bomber incident before making these arbitrary and capricious new rules. These safety measures seem designed more to punish the average flyer than to catch a potential terrorist.
The pilot must have flown faster than normal to make up for the delay. He got us to our port of entry with plenty of time to make our connecting flight. Getting through customs was cumbersome and frustrating, but not difficult. The rest of our journey went smoothly.
Honestly, I appreciate the TSA. When I go through security, I always thank the staff. I have no grief with the TSA agents, but some of the procedures don't make sense. The new procedures for international flights seemed more like a dog-and-pony show than an actual enhancement of security. We need to stop applying political correctness to our security measures and start applying behavioral profiling and additional screenings.