Airtight security

The world and nation have become increasingly connected. Businesses no longer have one local office; branches are spread hundreds or thousands of miles apart. New communication methods have allowed families to also spread apart without losing touch, causing more people to travel the skies to visit relatives that have broadened their horizons by moving across the country. However, flying has become such a common method of travel that the demand for it to be easy and convenient has increased. Yet convenience of air travel in the United States comes at a price, and on Sept. 11, the nation learned what airline officials have known all along: Airline security is far from airtight.

The tragic attacks on the World Trade Centers and the Pentagon could have been prevented with more stringent and time-consuming security checks. The holes and weaknesses in security were known before the terrorist attacks, yet no improvements were made, because passengers demanded quick, easy and cheap transportation. But convenience cost the lives of thousands on Sept. 11 and the only solution left is to acknowledge the fact that airport security is not a matter of convenience but of life or death. This is the attitude lawmakers and airline operators need to embrace as air travel slowly resumes.

For this reason, immediate and permanent measures must be implemented. The nation cannot afford to leave security in the hands of underpaid and untrained entry-level guards. Our federal government should follow the example of many foreign airports that have impenetrable security due to government supervision. Airline companies cannot afford the level of security American passengers deserve, and with layoffs already expected, major airlines will struggle to upgrade their security forces. Better-trained and higher-paid guards along with more sophisticated rudimentary checks are necessary even though they will increase the cost of flying and end the days of convenient air travel. But convenience is not a right and will certainly not save lives from air disasters.

It is now clear airplanes can be used as weapons of mass destruction, a fact that justifies the presence of federal security agents on each plane. Just as agents on ground would monitor anything that could pose a serious threat, there should be a plain-clothed, armed federal agent on each flight to ensure the safety of passengers.

Passengers must remember flying in the United States was quick and easy only because airlines were not doing the job expected of them. They cut costs and have ultimately failed the nation. Just as the federal government must step in to remedy failing airports, Americans accustomed to convenient flying must be ready and willing to accept the inconvenience of increased security.