Security Theatre?

Checking in online for a flight, I uncharacteristically pause to look carefully at the safety screen. Well, to squint at it. There’s a lot going on in a small space.

width="952"What’s this all about?

Is your baggage safe for take off?

Although I wouldn’t myself make an airplane’s takeoff into two words, I see that online opinions vary, and I’m prepared to let it go. This time.

What really bothers me is how hard it is to “unpack” this communication, as we say these days. Let’s take a look, shall we?

There are four quadrants with content. Let’s read them as most of us do, left to right, top to bottom:

  • Things that you can take, but that must go with you in the cabin.
  • Things that you can not take on an airplane at all at all no siree don’t even think about it and yes this means you.
  • Things that you can take, but that must be checked in as baggage.
  • The WARNING.

Here’s the order in which I’d present this content:

  • The WARNING. Can you hear me now?
  • No to this stuff, not anywhere.
  • Yes to this stuff, but only in the hold.
  • Yes to this stuff, but only in the cabin.

And I’d use font large enough to, you know, read, even if that meant having four screens to click through, starting with the WARNING.

And I’d have an icon to match every word or phrase, which this doesn’t, not perfectly.

And I’d put the icons in the same order as the words, which this doesn’t, not perfectly.

And I’d ditch the “etc.” at the end of the prohibited/restricted lists. How can I or anyone guess what that might include?

So I wonder why the airlines don’t do these things. It begins to look like a pro forma safety effort: security theatre, as we say these days.

Maybe I should be unpacking altogether.


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12 Responses to Security Theatre?

  1. Tom Watson says:

    Kinda makes ya wonder why we even bother going, doesn’t it? By the time we get on board we’re so stressed out that it takes the edge off the trip.

    But providing, we’ve managed the load-up, and the flight, there’s still the landing…which reminds me of something I read the other day:
    After a particularly rough landing during thunderstorms in Memphis, a flight attendant on a Northwest flight announced, ‘Please take care when opening the  overhead compartments because sure as hell everything has shifted after a landing like that.’


    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Tom – LOL. I love it when we get honest communication. So much better than the safety briefings that are read or said by rote in a tone that pretty much ensures we don’t listen.

  2. Jim Taylor says:

    I think there’s a more fundamental problem in that notice. Who cares if my baggage is safe for take off? It’s mostly inanimate stuff — entirely inanimate stuff, now that I think about it, because animate stuff has to go in a pet cage — and isn’t going to be damaged in take off. It’s *me* I care about. Am *I* safe during take off, and even more pertinent, am I safe when coming back down to terra firms again?
    Maybe they should consider exchanging the word “safe” for “approved”?
    Jim T

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Jim – Good point. If they want our attention and compliance, they should cast it in terms that we care about.

  3. How disappointing, after all this effort of interpretation and squinting, to find you cannot take your Small Lithium Battery Operated Vehicle with you. Or is that a Small Vehicle Operated by a Lithium Battery? Or is it a Vehicle Operated by a Small Lithium Battery? Oh, Joy! You can find a way through the Upper Case Warning to board with your Large, Small-Lithium-Battery-Operated Vehicle! Now, if it had wings . . . .

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Laurna – LOL. Yes, there are also problems with hyphens, or missing hyphens. I think it’s meant to prohibit those small segue-like powered skateboards, which had a distressing tendency to burst into flame. But who knows?

  4. John Whitman says:

    Isabel – I think you are forever going to be an editor. Now that you are supposed to be retired you might consider going with the flow. I find that going with the flow makes life easier – except when it comes to politics.
    John W

  5. My headline catch of the day goes beyond the take-off portion of a flight —

    Will shrinking aeroplane toilets stop fat people flying?
    The new 61cm-wide lavatories found on some US flights can free up space for six additional passengers. But some may not be able to close the toilet door.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Barbara – Well, I sometimes wonder whether I’m getting wider or airplane seats are getting narrower. I’ll take this as a sign that it’s the latter.

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