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Man on the Street: Has Airline Security Gone Too Far?

Photo by Joey Mentzer

Beware, people with bladder control problems! The FBI is coming for you! That’s what four individuals learned on September 11, 2011 while aboard two airplanes.

ABC News reported that several F16 fighter jets escorted a Detroit-bound Frontier Airlines flight to the ground on Sept. 11, 2011 because three of the planes passengers were exhibiting questionable behavior.

The Blaze, a news, information, and opinion website, reported that law enforcement officials questioned the passengers for spending an “extraordinarily long time” in the bathroom. According to ABC News, all of the “suspicious” passengers did not know each other. Later, law enforcement officials deemed all of the passengers innocent after questioning in custody.

On an American Airlines flight from Los Angeles to New York’s JFK on Sept. 11, 2011, The Blaze reports that three passengers went to the bathroom an excessive amount of times. Other surrounding passengers also accused these individuals of using hand signals to communicate. Fighter jets escorted the plane to the ground, and officials questioned several passengers. Law enforcement officials never confirmed the individuals’ use of hand signals. They released all passengers held in custody for questioning and found them innocent.

I asked ten people on Michigan Ave in Chicago: “On September 11, 2011, fighter jets escorted two planes to the ground in order to question several individuals that apparently ‘went to the bathroom too many times.’ Do you think this was too much security, just right, or not enough? And why?”

The answers were evenly split between “just right” and “too much.” No one responded “not enough.”

Some respondents, such as Janet Keck, 74, of Oakbrook, IL felt security was perfectly justified for their actions. “Suspicious behavior has to be investigated as long as it’s going to keep ourselves safe,” Keck explains. “I don’t think it was off bound or rude or violent or unreasonable.”

Similarly, Alyssa Pitts, 19, of Chicago, IL and Rachael Tyndall, 19, of Beverly Hills, MI both concurred that if they were on the plane, they would be happy that security erred on the side of caution as opposed to letting it go.

Some extremists believed that security was too tight. “You probably embarrassed them if they had some type of diarrhea issue that day. I don’t know maybe they thought the bomb was up his anus and he had a hard time getting it out?” said Ram Goetz, 19, of Chicago, IL.

Also believing that there was too much security, Larry Inglis, 65, from Port Perry, Ontario, Canada and Shanell Fisher, 23, of Chicago, IL agreed that something else that could have been done while still on the plane to avoid grounding it. Fisher says, “They only did that because it was September 11.” Being the anniversary of the attacks, security was stronger than usual, whether necessary or not.

Some thought security was justified in being so strict. “I think if they are keeping our safety in mine, then I appreciate what they are doing,” Stephanie Clark, 20, of Napa, CA explains. “And if they were a threat, then I’m glad that they took action and did something about it.”

In contrast, Marco Scola, 21, of Lockport, IL , explained why he felt security was too strong. “Honestly, I think if they have to ground a couple planes to see why somebody’s going to the bathroom too much, it’s taking national security a little too far.” He and four other individuals interviewed agreed that going to the bathroom too many times or at the same time as someone else are not necessarily grounds for emergency landing a plane.

It will be interesting to see how security will be handled next year on September 11. Maybe there will be a new department in security, the department of bathroom affairs.


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The Hub Bub is a collection of articles, videos, audio, photo slideshows, interactive maps and other media produced by students enrolled in journalism courses at Loyola University Chicago's School of Communication. For more about the School of Communication, our award winning faculty, and our state of the art facilities located in the heart of Chicago, visit our website.