April 20th, 2011
04:12 PM ET

What should be done about the rash of air traffic controller screw-ups?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

The next time you're on an airplane making a landing in a crowded metropolitan area, the thought may cross your mind whether the air traffic controller handling your flight is awake or asleep or watching a movie or doing something besides helping get your flight safely on the ground. Just a thought.
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Nine incidents are under investigation by the FAA in cities from Washington to Knoxville, Tennessee, to Reno, Nevada, to Seattle, where air traffic controllers reportedly fell asleep on the job and in one case were watching a movie while working.

On Monday afternoon, a plane carrying first lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden had to abort its landing at Andrews Air Force Base after coming dangerously close to a military cargo jet. The cause: error by a civilian air traffic controller. The FAA said neither plane was ever in any danger but it is launching a full investigation into that incident, too. The National Transportation Safety Board is also looking into what happened.

The last time the air traffic controllers acted up, Ronald Reagan fired all 11,000 of them. The union had decided to strike. President Reagan stepped in and hired nearly 9,000 new air traffic controllers to take their places over the next year. Critics say three decades later, many of those one-time scabs are starting to retire or approaching retirement age, and employee turnover may be part of the problem with air traffic controllers right now. But the funny thing is, I don't recall a rash of sleeping controllers back in the ‘80s.

Over the weekend, the FAA announced changes to controllers' schedules, now requiring at least nine hours between shifts instead of eight. Controllers also will not be allowed to switch shifts with another controller unless they have had at least nine hours off. And perhaps if they're caught sleeping on the job they should be fired instead of merely suspended.

Here’s my question to you: What should be done about the rash of air traffic controller screw-ups?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: Airlines
November 24th, 2010
03:23 PM ET

Time to reconsider profiling for airport security?


FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

As the national debate over full-body scans and pat downs at airports rages on, there's another idea that maybe deserves a second look: profiling.

It works pretty darn well for Israel, but questions of political correctness always seem to put an end to the discussion in the U.S. Instead we are reduced to having our crotches grabbed.

However, a Washington Post-ABC News poll shows 70 percent of Americans support using available information about passengers to determine who gets picked for extra security screening.

When asked what criteria should be used to select passengers: 86 percent say personal behavior, 78 percent say travel history, 55 percent say nationality, and 50 percent say personal appearance.

This goes to the point that not all profiling is equal. There's a big difference between smart profiling and the less effective kind – based on race, religion, gender or country.

What's important is for the U.S. to improve profiling based on things like behavior, no-fly lists, personal data and travel history.

It turns out many pilots support this kind of profiling. The Daily Beast reports that online discussion groups show pilots complaining that the government is wasting resources by applying the same broad security measures to everyone.

Meanwhile, with all the hype over airline security, consider this: Politico reports that in 99 million domestic flights (that have carried 7 billion U.S. travelers) in the last decade, there have been zero bombs snuck onto airplanes and detonated. Zero.

Here’s my question to you: When it comes to airport security, is it time to reconsider profiling?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: Airlines • The Cafferty File • Travel • Vacation
November 22nd, 2010
04:28 PM ET

Looking forward to airplane travel, full body scans and pat downs?



FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Two million people a day are expected to travel through this nation's airports Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving. I am very happy I'm not one of them.

Airline travel this holiday season is shaping up to be a nightmare, thanks to the government's new airport security measures, which include full body scans and invasive pat-downs.

A growing backlash to these measures is coming from all corners, from pilot and flight attendant groups to civil rights and privacy advocates.

Even Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who hasn't gone through airport security in decades, admits she wouldn't want to submit to an enhanced pat-down if she could avoid it.

Passengers are sharing outrageous stories that show just how embarrassing and invasive all this is:

A flight attendant and breast cancer survivor says she was asked to remove her prosthetic breast during a pat-down, while a bladder cancer survivor wound up soaked with urine during his pat-down.

The latest example comes by way of a viral video of a shirtless boy getting a pat-down from a TSA agent. A partially disrobed child forced to submit to groping by a strange adult. It's just disgraceful.

The TSA insists it's trying to strike a balance between security and privacy concerns. Really?

One industry expert tells the Associated Press that the agency is working under an unachievable mandate since the risks constantly change when terrorists use new tactics. This means the TSA is always in crisis mode, adding new policies to respond to the last terror plot.

And on some level, Americans do get their dilemma. A recent CBS poll shows that four out of five Americans support the use of full body scans.

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: Airlines • Thanksgiving • Travel
November 16th, 2010
04:25 PM ET

Would you pay extra for flight with no children?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

More in the Cafferty File today on the pleasures of modern air travel:
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After you're groped, X-rayed and looked at like a common criminal, you finally make it onto your flight only to find you're seated in front of, next to or behind someone traveling with one or more small children.

For the duration of your flight, you can look forward to screaming, crying, kicking, food-throwing and yelling parents.

The New York Times says for some, sitting near such an uncontrollable child is "the second biggest fear of flying." They report on a growing push for airlines to create child-free flights or to designate "family-only" sections on planes.

A recent travel survey shows 59 percent of passengers support creating these special sections, while close to 20 percent say they'd like to see flights with no children.

Some travelers say they'd gladly pay extra to fly with no children on board. Even some parents support the idea of separating kids from the rest of the passengers.

They say a family-only section would give parents and children more freedom to make a little noise. They also point out it's stressful for parents when their kids are screaming and won't calm down.

But it's unlikely any of this will happen. A major airline trade group says the industry is working hard to return to profitability; and they don't want to start turning people away from certain flights.

As for family-only sections, they say it would be too complicated. Plus it could set a dangerous precedent once you start separating passengers by age. What if there are calls for elderly-free flights or obese-only sections?

Here’s my question to you: Would you pay extra for a flight with no children?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: Airlines • Children • On Jack's radar
November 15th, 2010
05:00 PM ET

Has airport security gone too far?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

If you enjoyed your last mammogram or prostate exam, you'll love your next trip to the airport.
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That's a quote from a Chicago Tribune column, headlined "Government in our pants," that suggests airport screening is out of control.

More than nine years after the 9/11 attacks, it seems as if airport security might have finally crossed the line.

Grassroots groups are calling on people either not to fly or to protest by refusing to submit to those full body scanners, the ones that show "everything."

Major airline pilot unions are urging their members to avoid full-body scans. They're worried about health risks because of repeated small doses of radiation, along with intrusiveness and security officer behavior.

The Transportation Security Administration insists machines are safe. And you believe what your government tells you, don't you? But some scientists say not enough is known about them.

As for the pat downs, one pilot says it was like "sexual molestation."

A California man learned this after being thrown out of the San Diego, California, airport over the weekend.

John Tyner first refused to submit to a full body scan, opting for the traditional metal scanner and a basic pat-down. He then refused a groin check by the TSA guard, saying at one point, "You touch my junk, and I'm going to have you arrested."

Tyner has been threatened with a civil suit and a $10,000 fine.

All this comes just days before Thanksgiving and the start of the busiest travel time of the year.

Here’s my question to you: Has airport security gone too far?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: Airlines
July 21st, 2010
05:00 PM ET

British prime minister flies commercial to U.S., lesson for our politicians?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

The British Prime Minister broke protocol big time during his trip to the U.S. - he flew commercial.
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As one British reporter put it, David Cameron was "slumming it in business class" on the flight from London to Washington.

How refreshing. Cameron didn't take his own private jet, he didn't even fly first class. Turns out Cameron is actually walking the walk when it comes to fiscal austerity. Britain, like much of Europe, is in the midst of making drastic cuts to many government programs in order to keep its economy afloat.

Under normal circumstances, Prime Ministers travel on their own planes. They either charter a Boeing 747 or 767 or use military jets. But Downing Street officials say that Cameron's commercial flight saved $300,000. In the grand scheme of things, the amount isn't that significant - but the gesture is huge.

As one British official tells the newspaper The Sun: "When we are asking the country to tighten their belts as much as we are it's very hard to justify hiring big jets to swan around the world. It may make his travel a little harder, but the Prime Minister believes it's up to him to set an example."

Are you listening, Nancy Pelosi?

Of course, having top government officials fly commercial can cause nightmares for security-types. And it's certainly not as convenient. According to The Sun, Cameron's meetings in Washington had to be scheduled around British Airways' schedule.

Never mind all that. It's just great. Imagine the money U.S. taxpayers could save if more of our lawmakers slummed it with the rest of us on commercial airplanes.

Here’s my question to you: Is there a lesson for our politicians in the British prime minister flying commercial to America?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: Airlines
January 11th, 2010
05:00 PM ET

Are machines that "look under your clothes" the answer to airport security?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

They see everything… I mean everything. But apparently that's okay with folks since that failed Christmas bombing plot... where a Muslim extremist tried to blow up an airplane bound for Detroit.
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A majority of Americans say they're willing to submit to screening at airports using full-body scanners.

A new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll shows 79-percent of those polled say U.S. airports should use the technology...

72-percent say they would not be concerned about airport security using a full-body scanner on them... 82-percent say they would prefer the full-body scanner to a pat-down by a security guard.

Also - the survey shows only 18-percent of those polled believe full-body scanners pose health risks...

There is some debate out there about the safety of the technology meant to detect bombs or weapons under passengers' clothing.

These scanning machines deliver small doses of radiation - equal to about one-percent or less of the radiation in a dental X-Ray - to millions of travelers. Radiation experts say it's such a small amount that the risk to individuals is next to nothing... but some expect the technology to result in a few additional cancer deaths.

Health question aside, more focus has been on the privacy issues.The ACLU says full body scans amount to a "virtual strip search."

The Obama administration says it plans to put hundreds more of these machines in U.S. airports and is urging other countries around the world to do the same.

Here’s my question to you: Are machines that can "look under your clothes" the answer to airport security?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: Airlines
January 7th, 2010
04:00 PM ET

How safe do you feel when flying?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

So let's recap:

A man's father in Nigeria goes to the U.S. embassy warning that his son has "become radicalized," that he went to Yemen to be part of "some kind of jihad" and he's concerned his son might want to do us harm. This is called a clue.
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The man's son subsequently buys a ticket to the U.S., pays $3,000 cash... and has no luggage. These are more clues. But he's allowed to board a flight for Detroit and tries to blow it up.

The president now says U.S. intelligence officials had enough information to stop the suspect before he ever got on that plane... and that they knew that al Qaeda in Yemen wanted to attack the U.S. homeland; but once again they didn't connect the dots.

Also, turns out the top official in charge of analyzing terror threats - Michael Leiter - went on a ski vacation only two-days after the Christmas bombing attempt.

Then, a few days later, another man breaches security at Newark Airport - resulting in a version of a Keystone Cops movie. The terminal is locked down, thousands of people are stranded and have to be to be re-screened. But no one could find the guy because, among other things, the security cameras weren't working properly and hadn't been for several days.

The upshot of all this: The transportation security administration has taken full responsibility for the security breach and an officer has been re-assigned to non-screening duties after that fiasco. In other words, the guy who causes all the chaos at Newark Airport still has his job and so do all the officials in charge of protecting the flying public. And we pay their salaries.

Here’s my question to you: How safe do you feel when flying?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: Airlines
January 5th, 2010
04:00 PM ET

Airline security: Is it time to start profiling?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

In light of the botched Christmas day airline bombing - some say it's past time to start profiling passengers - especially from certain countries.
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The U.S. is demanding more careful screening for people who are citizens of - or flying from - 14 countries considered security risks... including Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. The screening is to include things like full-body scanning and pat-downs, searches of carry-on bags and explosive-detection technology.

From the school of common sense comes the idea that it makes sense to more thoroughly screen passengers coming from countries where they may have been exposed to radical Islamic teachings.

But improved technology alone isn't the answer. The former head of security for Israel's airline El Al - which is arguably the most secure airline in the world - says we need better questioning of passengers. He suggests hiring well-educated, highly-trained agents who know what to look for. He says profiling isn't about singling out certain ethnic groups but about asking the right questions and spotting suspicious behavior.

Others claim that automatic profiling based on nationality doesn't work... terror suspect Richard Reid was British and Jose Padilla was Hispanic-American. But the fact remains that nearly all of the largest and deadliest terror attacks worldwide in the last 20 or 30 years have been carried out by young male Muslims from Arab countries in the Middle East. At what point does political correctness have to make way for our national security interests?

Oh, and President Obama's call for tougher screening procedures of passengers arriving in the U.S. from those countries deemed a security risk have been all but ignored in many places.

Here’s my question to you: When it comes to airline security, is it time to start profiling?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: Airlines
May 19th, 2009
06:00 PM ET

Should airports do away with whole-body scans?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Privacy groups want the government to get rid of whole-body imaging machines at airports - because they say the security technology performs a "virtual strip" search and produces "naked" pictures of passengers.

A TSA officer reviews a passenger's carry-on items during a whole body scan at Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

These sci-fi looking scanners were first introduced at a Phoenix airport in 2007. There are now 40 of them being tested and used in 19 airports. Some airports use them as a primary security check option instead of metal detectors; while others use it as a secondary option instead of a pat-down.

The Transportation Security Administration says the machines detect metallic and nonmetallic "threat items" to keep people safe, and that the technology is proven and they're highly confident in its detection capability. They also say this option is faster.

TSA officials say they're committed to respecting passenger privacy. The system uses a pair of security officers. The one who works the machine never sees the image, which is viewed behind closed doors by another officer, who never sees the passenger.

Also, the passenger's face is blurred. Officers can't bring cameras or any recording device into the room; and the machines automatically delete the images.

But critics are calling for more oversight, full disclosure for air travelers of what's going on here and legal language that would protect passengers and keep the TSA from changing its policy later on. The ACLU says we shouldn't pretend "being groped and being stripped" are our only options.

A bill was introduced in the House last month to ban these machines.

Here’s my question to you: Should airports do away with whole-body scans because they show "everything"?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: Airlines • Travel
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