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Michael Bennett is the former Senior Producer of the Travel Channels west coast operations and is currently a travel writer for Savoy and Black Enterprise Magazine. Michael is the host of Globetrotting on BET's BET on Jazz Network. For travel question write to


Beginning February 1, 2002 passengers will pay $2.50 per flight to help defray the cost of new and hopefully improved airport security. There's a maximum charge of $5 for a one-way trip if you need to change planes. The Department of Transportation expects to collect $900 million for the current fiscal year ending in September. Will all this money make air travel safer? Lets take a quick look at a couple of problems that money may or may not solve.

Beginning January 18, new bag matching procedures were put in place to match luggage with passengers who actually boarded the plane on all domestic flights. It's a requirement that's long overdue and has been in place on international flights for years. The baggage match requirement in Europe has been in place since Pan Am flight 103 blew up over Lockerbie, Scotland back in 1988. Many thought the new baggage match requirements here in the U.S. would slow down the air transportation system, but early results are promising with no major delays reported.

Unfortunately, a loophole still exists when it comes to matching checked bags on connecting flights. As the rules are currently enforced, bags are checked at the original departure point only. Here's an example to illustrate the possible danger as a result of this loophole: if a terrorist boards a flight from Los Angeles to New York with a connecting flight in St. Louis, the terrorist could actually get off the plane in St. Louis and never board the flight to New York. In the meantime the terrorists suitcases are transferred to the New York bound flight with no attempt to match bag to passenger. The terrorist is long gone and need I say still alive to plan more despicable acts of terror.

Here's an even more disturbing problem that goes hand-in-hand with the one
mentioned above. Checked luggage is still not screened for explosives at
most of the nations airports. Many of the machines needed to perform this
task have not been installed and will not be for the foreseeable future. The
reasons are many; costs, space and availability are just some of the excuses
I've heard. Of those that are installed, Inspector General Kenneth Mead,
says only half of the 161 machines are operating fulltime. If a terrorist is
really committed to blowing up a plane as part of some suicide mission they
only need to figure out a way to get the bag onboard the aircraft. The
deadline for having explosive detection and x-ray machines installed and
running at all airports is December 31, 2002. Call me a cynic, but I'm
willing to bet most airports wont make the due date.

And while I'm writing about airport security I ran across an interesting
article in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that may be a harbinger of things
to come in aviation security. For those of you who are staunch believers in
privacy and civil rights issues, you might want to avoid Palm Beach
International Airport. According to the Sun-Sentinel, Palm Beach
International will deploy a controversial new surveillance technology capable
of scanning faces of passengers to determine whether they are known
terrorists Many of you might remember this is the same technology used to
scan the faces of suspected criminals who might have attended the Super Bowl
in Tampa a few years back. Deployment of this new face scanning technology
should be complete by the end of January. Tests of the system will be
performed over the next three months using the faces of airport employees
already scanned in the databases. If the test proves successful the next
hurdle to permanent deployment will most likely be the court system. The
American Civil Liberties Union is keeping a watchful eye and may file suit to
prevent this surveillance technologies permanent use. Are you entitled to
privacy in a public place? Interesting dilemma, I'm glad its not me that has
to decide.