Tuesday, June 07, 2005


Massport took a lot of abuse after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, blamed for lax security that let hijackers get onto airplanes and fly them into buildings. This is unfair: The hijackers used box cutters, not assault rifles, and before 9/11, box cutters didn’t raise alarms or break laws.

But Logan International Airport, which Massport calls the 19th-busiest airport in the United States, was also supposed to be the one made the toughest for terrorists to crack after 9/11. “Massport has been extremely willing to make the changes necessary to make this the safest airport. There's a sensitivity here among the leadership,” said George Naccara, the federal security director at Logan, at the one-year anniversary of the attacks.

Unfortunately, at the same time, Logan was shown — by journalists sneaking box cutters and such onto airplanes — to be just as vulnerable.

Speed time to midday Friday as hundreds shuffle through metal detectors and searches on their way to JetBlue’s flight 487 to California. All metal objects in the bins. Shoes off. Laptops examined in a special device. Among the hundreds is Brian Mix, who has somehow been stuck with a ticket with the name of a friend — a Mr. Gomez. Mix doesn’t look like a Gomez, but perhaps because JetBlue deserves its reputation for pleasant and attentive service, he has been able to pick up this ticket despite having photo identification with the wrong name. Meaning his correct name.

He also makes it past the security checkpoint, again flashing a photo ID that in no way matches the name on his ticket or boarding pass. He also makes it past the gate check and onto the airplane, where he sits across the aisle from me and laughs with the flight attendants about his security breach.

I have also been treated well by JetBlue. At the gate I asked whether it served Coke or Pepsi products, as I would have bought a Coke in the terminal if I could get only Pepsi on board. After some joking around, I found out JetBlue serves Diet Coke. Dying of thirst, I asked the flight attendants immediately upon sitting how soon I could get one. They laughed and told me the gate agents had told them about me.

And a Diet Coke appeared on my tray only moments after takeoff, long before regular beverage service started.

In addition to a general pleasantness and a liberal snacks policy (making up as best an airline can for a lack of meals), this service charmed me. I would be more than happy to fly JetBlue again, especially as Northwest Airlines, for example, eliminates its magazines and considers charging for its miserable pretzels. (JetBlue doesn’t offer magazines either. But one can kill a lot of time trying each of its snacks, from Terra Blue potato chips to chocolate chip biscotti. And, in desperation, one can even read the snack labels. For free.)

My special service, however, didn’t involve — theoretically — killing some poor guy named Gomez and using his ticket to board a fully fueled, nonstop flight to California before hijacking it and flying it into a building. And even if JetBlue knew of Brian Mix’s special circumstances, the Transportation Security Administration didn’t.

The breach doesn’t worry me overmuch, and I’m not ready to blame Logan, Massport, JetBlue or even the TSA without knowing more. But there’s something peculiar about visualizing Brian Mix’s story against the backdrop of modern airline security; I know I should be either outraged or disturbed, but for some reason I’m merely amused — in a resigned sort of a way.

No comments: