In the past weeks, there has been much debate over the new TSA (Transportation Security Administration) measures and rules for airline security techniques. For those of us who travel by air, we must now expect either a pat down or a full body scan when we check in at the airport for our flight. The pat down is basically a “frisking” by the security officials, while the “body scan” is a high tech video device that can see through clothing. Yes, they can see you naked. Many people, including the pilot’s unions, are opposed to this measure, calling it a violation of privacy and claiming it does little to actually improve security. but what I want to examine is what it DOES do. What do the additional security measures and complexities of airline travel do to the average traveler and the travel and tourism industry in our country?
My wife and I love to travel. We aren’t able to travel as much as we used to now that we have children and our income has been reduced, partly by the economy and partly by personal choice. The question that we face when we do travel is “what are we willing to accept in order to go to the places we want to travel to?”. For years I have said that if my destination is within 10 hours of driving, then I will drive instead of fly. Of course there are some destinations that we cannot drive to, although I would if I could. (Does anyone know where I can get a Volkswagen Schwimmwagen?)
Airports and airline travel equal stress for many people who choose, or are required, to use this mode of transportation. The new TSA security pat downs and body scans only adds to this stress. When we factor in the time it takes to prepare for airline travel, check in, wait, security checks, more waiting, boarding and seating in seats made for Lilliputians and more waiting, often times it does not outweigh the freedom of getting in the car and driving. So where is the balance of choice in all this? It is certainly shifting away from airline travel.
We now find ourselves looking for more vacation destinations within a reasonable driving distance. Not only does this provide more freedom, less body scans and pat downs (“less” because you never know the check in policies of some hotels), but it also puts us in a position of finding some hidden gems that are close to home. So my theory that the new TSA airport security requirements will be bad for airline travel and destinations that can only be reached by air, but good for domestic and local destinations, holds true for our family.
We have seen the effects of the reduction of airline travel in our home city of Cincinnati. The Cincinnati airport has three main terminals. Ten years ago this was a bustling hub of activity with monorails, shuttle busses and endless travelers shuffling between terminals. Today it is veritable ghost town with only one terminal in operation, one tram to take the handful of travelers to the one remaining terminal. The airport, as we knew it, is no more.
I am certainly not advocating the reduction in TSA security measures by any means, I am not the one to make that decision. What I am seeing, however, is the impact of making the prospect of airline travel less appealing. In some ways it is bad, and in some ways good for our domestic destinations and our families. Our playground is smaller, so we are spending more time examining the parts of our reduced range for the things that make us happy. We are also spending time in the car, talking, laughing and enjoying our time together. How can that be a bad thing?