The search for a way to keep our commercial airlines safe from bombing has consumed a great deal of effort, not to mention money, in the past few years. Technology has been unleashed in almost innumerable configurations — metal detectors, sniffers, even x-rays that are being deployed even though some people object that they are more x-rated than x-rays.
But there is a relatively simple solution that is cheap, easy, and could be implemented almost immediately. Some would argue that’s precisely why it hasn’t been done — what’s the fun in low-tech, low-cost solutions when government is involved?
I argue this solution could not only settle the question of people smuggling bombs on board once and for all, but it could actually make flying more comfortable, unlike the current security solutions.
What is this mysterious, almost magical solution? I call it “robe and slippers airlines.”
Here’s how it would work. When you arrive at the airport, you don’t go through a gauntlet of security inspectors and machinery. Instead, you go into a changing room where a friendly attendant hands you a box containing a soft, fresh robe and a pair of slippers. You remove all your clothes, including shoes and underwear (which seem to be the favorite hiding places for contraband explosives), put on the robe and slippers, then pack your clothing into the box.
Your clothes then go through whatever security searches are deemed necessary, while you are free to make your way to the boarding area for your flight. While you travel in comfy-coziness, your separately, discretely inspected belongings are sent along to the baggage hold. Inspections can even be done out of sight of the general public, thus avoiding undue embarrassment over underwear styles, while also restoring a relatively quiet, soothing atmosphere to the public areas of the airport.
Allowances are made for medications and other in-flight essentials (though not electronics or other items that might loosen the new tighter security), but in general checked baggage becomes a quaint relic of a more innocent age. Now everyone takes the same chance that his or her luggage will travel to a more exotic locale than he will. Perhaps, given all the technological minds now freed of the burden of ever-expanding security machinery, someone could develop a reliable way for airlines to get luggage to the same destination as the passenger at roughly the same time. Or Federal Express and UPS could set up kiosks near each changing station to allow reliable shipping of personal belongings.
Variations are possible once the basic system is in place. For those traveling to tropical climates, swimwear and flip-flops could replace the robe and slippers. For the truly uninhibited, the robe simply could be made optional.
Airports could expand available services given the state of dress of all passengers. For instance, a sauna or massage therapist would fit nicely among the shops.