Welcome

Dennis Jones is a Jamaican-born international economist, who has lived most of the time in the UK and USA, and latterly in Guinea, west Africa. He moved back to the Caribbean in 2007. This blog contains his observations on life on this small eastern Caribbean island, as well as views on life and issues on a broader landscape, especially the Caribbean and Africa.

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Saturday, September 01, 2007

The terrors of air travel

Since September 11, 2001, many international air travellers have had to deal with a whole new world of increased security procedures before they can board a plane, especially for travel to, from, and within the United States of America. Those who travel extensively within Europe or from Europe to places other than the USA, will know that although stringent measures are applied there, they seem to be far less intrusive and often faster than when dealing with the USA. We have also had to deal with much "closing of stable doors after the horse has bolted" as with the bans on various forms of liquids. I read recently that one of the apparently sensible bans, on lighters will soon be removed! If this is true, then I have to wonder what kind of security measures are really in place.

However, I have had a concern for a while about the possibilities for thefts with this increased security. As someone who travels by air quite often, I am aware of many of the scams that take place in and around airports, with pickpocketing, calling card numbers being spied, etc. However, this new aspect concerning the security checks was highlighted again to me by a Barbadian family I met while travelling yesterday from San Juan, Puerto Rico, to Barbados. They had just suffered the "loss" of valuable electronic equipment while they were passing through security at San Juan. What they retold was that while there was a check of the pocket book of one of the ladies in the party, other items which had passed through the scanner disappeared. Now, we can speculate about what is going on. There are a few obvious possibilities. One, is that an opportune thief saw the lady being delayed and took the opportunity to just nab the item and leave. Another possibility is that the security crew (or some of them) may be running a little organized theft scheme, whereby they target someone passing with a small desirable item like a portable DVD player, and arrange for the passenger to be distracted and have someone take the item. The family concerned are at a slight disadvantage in this case, as they did not immediately realize that the item was missing, so were perhaps compromised when they returned to the security area to report the problem. They said that they asked if there was a closed circuit video of what occurs at the security checks and asked for that to be reviewed. A supervisor indicated that this would be done and they would be contacted. I am not optimistic.

Now when I travel by air I limit what I carry by hand, and minimize problems with what I wear; I even do not bother with a belt for flights. I often travel with a laptop computer and have always tried to make sure that this is never out of my sight during the security screening, often putting it as the last item. Similarly, I am very cautious with a wallet at the security check. There may be some natural confusion over similar looking items, but I am also aware that opportunities can create motives. I try not to tempt a thief. I hope that my suspicions are not founded and that this family get back their possessions. But I would be interested in other instances that suggest that the security checkers are not so secure, especially in the region.

1 comment:

B isforBajan said...

Hi Dennis,
hope my families unfortunate experience in Puerto Rico proves helpful in some way by alerting and enabliing other travellers to avoid the same misfortune.

I also read your Blog about conch! It was good reading and reminded me to seek out the delicacy next time I'm in the supermarket.

I would have sworn the pic on the right was of Bajan fishcakes until I read your description!

Anything with aphrodisiac qualities is appealling to the wife and I especially....so that in itself is some motivation for us to try it out raw and prepared as you describe.

By the way I found our fortuitous meeting at the airport very enjoyable and look forward to the opportunity to share thoughts on Africa, politics and anything else when next our paths should intersect.

Wayne.