Tuesday, July 21, 2009

When are you too important to frisk?

In my role as Militant Ginger, I've flown back and forth across the Atlantic more than a few times (once, both back and forth in the same day!) Having tried most major carriers, my personal favorite is Continental Airlines.

[So, Continental, if you've got any first class upgrades available next time we fly, remember this endorsement! - Editorial Bear]

My fondness for Continental only increased today, when I read this story on Yahoo:

US airline probed after ex-Indian pres searched
By ASHOK SHARMA, Associated Press Writer – Tue Jul 21, 11:18 am ET

An Indian police investigation was launched Tuesday into employees from Continental Airlines after India's former president was frisked before boarding a flight to the United States.

Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel told Parliament: "This act of frisking the former president ... is absolutely unpardonable and beyond the scope of the laws of our country,"

Full story here.

I'm personally thrilled that Continental demanded former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam remove his shoes and go through a metal detector before boarding the flight - because that's exactly what the rest of us are expected to do.

It's nothing personal - I have enormous respect for Abdul Kalam - generally regarded as India's finest president and literally a 'rocket scientist' to boot (he was a former aeronautical engineer with India's Defence Research and Development Organisation.)

However, the idea that celebrities, dignitaries and VIPs should be allowed - nay, expected - to bypass airport security is just offensive to me.

The fact is, airport security is there for the safety of everybody - including worthless peons like myself, traveling economy (i.e. cattle) class. If the honorable former President of India demands that passengers such as myself are screened, frisked and prodded to ensure his safety, surely we have the right to demand exactly the same of him.

It's not a question of reverse snobbery (well, not entirely.) Having been brought up on a diet of James Bond thrillers and adventure stories, I can see that giving a dignitary carte blanche to bypass airport security is just a disaster waiting to happen in our post 9/11 world.

Hell, only last week I watched poor old Captain Jack Harkness have a bomb surgically inserted into his stomach (to blow Torchwood headquarters to smithereens.) What guarantee do I have that A.P.J. Abdul Kalam is carting the same sort of equipment around in his small intestine?

[If you missed the dreadful five-episode farce that was Torchwood: Children of Earth, you can buy the DVD here. - Editorial Bear]

No - Continental Airlines were absolutely right when they demanded Kalam pass through the metal detectors. I hope they stand firm against criticism and show the world that, when it comes down to the safety of passengers and crew, we're all equal.


Suki said...

OMFG. I'm Indian, and oh boy I really, really hated the treatment the VAPs(Very Assholey People) get here. Especially in West Bengal.

I can't find a statement of what Kalam says about this. If he did indeed protest against the frisking, I'll lose a lot of my respect for the man. In his defence, though, he's toeing the line between an administration that has half its head in the 1800s and the other half in its arse, and a 21st century paranoid world. Can't blame him for inching towards one side of the tightrope, can we?

Suki said...

I found a link - http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshow/4803184.cms
My faith in Kalam remains intact :).

And Somnath Chatterjee, the person in the article who twice cancelled trips abroad since he wouldn't be exempt from frisking, is a Bengali and a Communist. Was the Speaker of our Parliament.
Dammit.. I respected the guy for opposing the CPI(M), but this makes me think twice. In West Bengal, influence matters more than merit or even the law.

Anonymous said...

Would you prefer it if, after disembarkation from the Air force one, we ask the President of the US to be strip searched? say, maybe Mr. Clinton, or George Bush Sr, both of whom can use AF 1, are asked to strip for searching at the IGI airport in India? what will ur sentiments be then? You are comparing the former president of India with your self. I have heard of self respect, but who the fuck are u to compare yourself with a former president of any nation.

To the Very Assholey Person who has commented before me, you obviously do not know diplomatic protocols. You definitely are not Indian. No political dignitary on official visit is put through these checks.

I am actually ruing the missed opportunity of performing a strip and cavity search on the current secretary of state who is on visit to India.

Roland Hulme said...

Hi Anonymous! Thanks for commenting - although it's worth noting for the next time that calling people 'assholes' behind the comforting anonymity of 'anonymous' kind of pegs you as a craven chickenshit!

Personally, if President Obama took a Continental Airlines flight, I too would expect him to get his shoes off and walk through a metal detector. I expect EVERYBODY who boards that flight to. And, as a man and a role model, I'd expect Obama (or Kalam) to submit themselves to this with good graces - as an example to to the rest of us.

Leaders should lead by example.

As for this: "who the fuck are u to compare yourself with a former president of any nation?"

Well, I'm living in a country founded on the principle of 'all men are created equal.' I might not have achieved as much as Kalam - but that sure as hell doesn't mean that I don't deserve the same basic human dignities as him, or anybody else.

The fact that you called Suki 'very assholey' is both hilarious and hypocritical. REALLY!