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Hostile Skies with the Little Guys: Navigating Airline Security with Children

Hostile Skies with the Little Guys: Navigating Airline Security with Children

Maybe it was the site of my infant child being semi-aggressively patted down by a dingus TSA employee, while I sat helpless watching my last tube of toothpaste being rubber-glove fingered by another dingus TSA employee, that made me surrender any confidence I may have previously had about airport security. Or maybe it was the salt-in-the-wound comment that followed when the previously mentioned Atlanta TSA employee took a scrutinizing look at my New York State license and said, “I don’t like New Yorkers.” I can’t say I lost it, but I did admittedly become a lot less compliant after that moment.

While admittedly my distasteful experience is hardly the norm, and I will be extremely generous in stating that probably 97 percent of airport security checks are performed without incident and with due respect, I will say clearing security has become a much more difficult hurdle to jump since 2001, especially if you have children and are in the least bit suspicious (or both). Now in the wake of the attempted Christmas bombing of a Detroit-bound flight, things have become altogether more difficult, as well as confusing, for anyone and everyone trying to get from point A to point B via air travel.

As of Monday, new security measures have been put into place in airports (and airplanes) worldwide. It used to be that once you cleared security you could more or less relax and fall into the role of innocent passenger. Now strict measures and “enhanced screening” for those coming from “countries of interest” are in effect setting strict rules on everything from in-flight comforts (pillows, blankets, etc) to when, and if, you go to the bathroom. These new rules/restrictions are being unevenly enforced (at best) and the general “do’s” and “don’ts” for air travel remain a vexing mystery for most travelers. As if it weren’t bad enough traveling in these semi-hostile skies as an adult, try doing it as a parent with one or several children and you are in for a troublesome and obnoxious experience (“Sorry honey, you can’t pee or sleep until we land at JFK, and that please put away that Play-Doh or else someone might mistake it for a candy-colored plastic explosive”).

Unlike the safety measures post 9/11, this new batch of largely reactionary rules and regulations has been met with bewilderment at best, and total disdain otherwise. While people are understandably freaked by the idea of an explosion originating from the underwear of an alleged terrorist taking down a plane over Detroit, many of us are left wondering how these proposed changes are making us any safer, when all we feel is far less comfortable.

I am sure many of you had traveled over the past few weeks and have stories of your own about this new fortified security. Considering all of the changes in security, do you feel any safer? Is it worth the huge inconvenience? If planning on traveling in the near future, how are you going to manage, especially if you are traveling with young children? How about pregnant women? Flying for hours and being denied a pillow and bathroom access couldn’t be a popular proposition? Should we start thinking about trains and other alternative modes of transport until things cool down?

Read more: Babies, Children, Do Good, Family, Life, Parenting at the Crossroads, Transportation, , ,

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Eric Steinman

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.

73 comments

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11:54AM PST on Feb 24, 2010

BEFORE THE FLIGHT---SIT WITH YOUR KIDS AND CALMLY TELL THEM WHAT WILL HAPPEN ON THE FLIGHT----THEY WILL GO IN A GOOD MANNER!

4:29PM PST on Feb 22, 2010

Interesting; thanks, Eric. But it should be "sight" instead of "site" in the first sentence.

4:16AM PST on Feb 2, 2010

Thanks for info.

6:33PM PST on Jan 13, 2010

you lose privacy for better security/safety not buying it

9:51AM PST on Jan 13, 2010

I don't even fly anymore because it's not worth dealing with the TSA and the whole security hassle.

4:04PM PST on Jan 12, 2010

Interesting, thanks!

10:52AM PST on Jan 11, 2010

thanks for the article!

8:46AM PST on Jan 10, 2010

I don't really ever fly anywhere since my family and I rarely go anywhere, but after reading this post, I would try to find just about any other way to travel before I would try to go through all of that with 3 young kids.

3:05AM PST on Jan 10, 2010

Make train travel more affordable and convenient and bring back bus travel, also made more convenient and people will gladly flock to it. I would not fly now unless I absolutely had to. I don't like being insulted and I don't like being in danger and afraid for the whole flight. I believe in the airlines searching and watching young middle eastern men, especially. Also, anyone that acts suspicious and some people just at random, should be searched. Our lives are precious, and let them hire a lot of air marshalls to fly with us.If children fly I especially want them kept safe.

8:08PM PST on Jan 8, 2010

Train travel beats air all to pieces with children. It takes more time but is so hassle free and children have more room, freedom of movement and just watching the scenery fly by entertains them. The service almost always is so courteous. All in all a lovely way to travel.

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