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Airline policy shift?
December 30, 2005 8:55 PM   Subscribe

When did the FAA/airlines stop asking those 2 questions about whether someone had given me something to bring on the plane, and whether my bags had been out of my possession at any point? What was their justification? I want to say that this changed after 9/11, but that doesn't really make sense.
posted by unknowncommand to Travel & Transportation (27 answers total)
 
I've flown from Calgary, AB to Las Vegas, Seattle and Vancouver in the past 8 months, always on a Canadian-operated airline, and I've been asked these questions before each flight, away and return.
posted by chudmonkey at 9:03 PM on December 30, 2005


I can't find a specific reference on when it changed, but I can find post-9/11 articles referencing airlines being fined for not asking the questions. That pretty much confirms the post 9/11 timeline, but doesn't pinpoint it otherwise.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:06 PM on December 30, 2005


I seem to recall that the TSA announced that they would stop asking those questions as they effecitively did very little (i.e., no one actually ever gave a bad response to them and meant it).

As with chudmonkey, I've only been asked that on non-USian flights. For once, I agree with the TSA...I think the questions have very little impact in regards to stopping anything malicious from happening.
posted by Dagobert at 9:06 PM on December 30, 2005


The justification was people slipping bombs or other bad stuff into people's luggage. Once they started requiring bomb detection gear in the airports, I guess they started relying on the machines rather than questioning. Which, frankly, makes sense, since I'm not sure that the questions ever actually revealed a bomb.

For what it's worth, I haven't been asked that question having flown out of St. Louis and Little Rock on Southwest a few times. I don't remember if I was asked or not when I've flown to, from, and within Europe (to and from on American Airlines).
posted by jedicus at 9:08 PM on December 30, 2005


I haven't been asked that question in about 40 flights this year. Internationally can range from a laundry list of my electronics' personal histories to almost nothing, with similar physical screening.
posted by kcm at 9:17 PM on December 30, 2005


We flew from Seattle to Atlanta (and then to Birmingham) in November and were asked in both directions.
posted by Kickstart70 at 9:24 PM on December 30, 2005


The answer to your question is August 29, 2002.
posted by jjg at 9:32 PM on December 30, 2005


jjg beat me to it. But, re:

The justification was people slipping bombs or other bad stuff into people's luggage.


I don't think so. I think it was more about undercutting deniability. So that if, once you did enter screening, and something *was* found, you couldn't say that someone else put it into your bag, since you had already attested that a) no one gave you anything and b) you hadn't left your bag unattended.
posted by TonyRobots at 9:41 PM on December 30, 2005


Those questions always struck me as being tools to use in the aftermath of a terrorist bombing, in assigning liability, and possibly in prosecution, more than anything else.
posted by Good Brain at 9:44 PM on December 30, 2005


The two questions came from the success El Al had in 1986 at catching an Irish woman at Heathrow carrying a bomb planted on her by a Palestinian. Of course El Al's successful screening procedure got watered down into an ineffective pre-flight ritual in the US. This article describes both the end of the questions, and their origins.
posted by blue mustard at 9:49 PM on December 30, 2005


I just spent a few weeks in Bombay, and Virgin asked to and from London. Returning to London they not only x-rayed my bags, but insisted on physically examining every electronic item I was carrying.
posted by Mutant at 10:01 PM on December 30, 2005


I was asked those questions (and several more) coming back from Rome several years ago (a few months after 9/11). I felt they were much more effective overseas, probably because the asker scared me shitless. The US never had that part down.
posted by smackfu at 10:15 PM on December 30, 2005


This year, I flew to LA, SF, Michigan, NY, STL, PHX and was never asked, for what it's worth. I find it interesting that some people in this thread are still being asked... perhaps it's force of habit?
posted by disillusioned at 10:38 PM on December 30, 2005


I seem to recall being asked these questions long before 9/11, but cannot find any actual data.
posted by frogan at 12:04 AM on December 31, 2005


I seem to recall being asked these questions long before 9/11

I flew a lot around Europe in the mid 90s and trans-atlantic in the late 90s and these questions were definitely a part of the airport routine back then.
posted by normy at 12:41 AM on December 31, 2005


At the time it was stopped, there was an NPR story with a hoo-ha interviewed from the FAA(?) who said that the reasons were basically that a) it had never stopped anything happening and b) took an additional 15 to 30 seconds for each passenger processed. That time over one flight let alone the many many flights run by any given airline is a lot of time for your customers standing in line.

Instead, they just made security more hell! I do still get these questions on ocassionw when traveling in other countries. I can recall it happening in the last year or two in Switzerland, Brazil, and the UAE.
posted by whatzit at 12:56 AM on December 31, 2005


Flying from Frankfurt to Chicago on an American Airlines connection is horrible. I get asked these and about a dozen other stupid, demeaning questions for about 1/2 hour by the TSA. I just adapt my robot attitude and answer abrupt yes/no without volunteering any additional info. Foreigners travelling on these flights get an even worse experience. This has happened to me twice, so I typically avoid Frankfurt now.
posted by JJ86 at 2:04 AM on December 31, 2005


jjg has it, but for what it's worth, I've flown over 140k miles this year and was only asked when departing the UK. No US-based agent has asked me those questions for a couple of years now.
posted by bedhead at 2:53 AM on December 31, 2005


I always had a problem with the "has your luggage been in your control" question. Whenever I have taken a cruise, they collect your large luggage the night before and you get it when you leave the boat... then a cab straight to the airport, and "yes, I haven't seen this bag for the last 12 hours!"
posted by thilmony at 5:32 AM on December 31, 2005


They are going to be asking more questions soon.

To me, the problem with the two questions here in the US was always the desultory way the check in people asked them, as if it were a rote stupid task to get through. Abroad, it's the security guys who ask and they do the unnerving stare-into-your-eyes thing when they ask. I always end up feeling guilty even when I don't even have a contraband salami.
posted by CunningLinguist at 5:37 AM on December 31, 2005


On my flight from Atlanta to Savannah (yeah, I know, short trip), I was asked these questions. On the return, I was not.
posted by itchie at 6:01 AM on December 31, 2005


My personal experience (not that the original poster asked for anecdotes) exactly matches bedhead's.
posted by jjg at 6:20 AM on December 31, 2005


I flew all the way to afghanistan and back and was never asked those questions. In fact I have not heard them for a long time. Maybe they just ask that in Red states to make the paranoid feel more secure.
posted by _zed_ at 6:22 AM on December 31, 2005


I've flown more than two hundred times domestically in the last two years, often with checked luggage, and never had the questions asked.
posted by MarkAnd at 7:37 AM on December 31, 2005


Most airports, however, do have a canned announcement that says something like, "Please do not leave your luggage unattended. Unattended luggage will be removed by [whatever law inforcement agency applies] and destroyed."
posted by MarkAnd at 7:39 AM on December 31, 2005


A big factor was the automatic check in machines. The idea is you ask the questions and watch, not listen, to the answers, looking for signs of nervousness or evasiveness. If found, you'd key in a message that would call a security officer over to take a look.

Never mind the gate agents not having real training in this -- the ticket machines have none. So, having people answer the questions via machines was just silly.

I used to check in with "Hi, FOO via ORD, no, no." Almost always got a laugh.
posted by eriko at 8:03 AM on December 31, 2005


I seem to recall that the TSA announced that they would stop asking those questions as they effecitively did very little (i.e., no one actually ever gave a bad response to them and meant it).

That's because they didn't want anyone to give them a bad response because then they'd have to go to the trouble of checking the luggage. When asked "has your luggage been in your control since you packed it?" I've said "no, I left it in the hotel's baggage storage room after I checked out." The airline woman looked at me sternly and repeated "Has your luggage been in your control since you packed it?" in a tone that made it clear I'd better say "yes" the second time.
posted by duck at 8:55 AM on December 31, 2005


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