New Technology May Allow Shoes to Stay Attached to Feet While Crossing Through Airport Security

Supposedly here’s what we can expect.

Air travelers will eventually be able to keep their shoes on to pass through security, but the restrictions on carrying liquids on board are likely to remain in place for some time, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told a POLITICO Playbook breakfast Tuesday.

As I’ve explained before, sometimes it seems that the only way to get rid of one silly boondoggle is with a more expensive boondoggle. Napolitano suggests that I may be correct.

“The solution to many if not all of these inconveniences is better and better technology,” Napolitano added.

Indeed, we get to keep our shoes on if taxpayers are willing to shell out for expensive equipment. The reason it works is because it aligns the lobbying of equipment manufacturers with those who wish to change silly security rules, together those “bootleggers and Baptists” align to overcome bureaucratic inertia.

The Homeland Security head did not detail the new technology that will be introduced that would allow passengers to keep their shoes on at airport security checkpoints.

I might suggest that the technology ought simply to be “feet.” Those work pretty well at keeping shoes on, at least in my experience.

But are we keeping rules in place because we actually think they’re responsive to, like, actual plans, plots, or danger?

She added, “We don’t have specific or credible information that an attack is pending, that’s not to say it isn’t…There’s no specific or credible threat. That’s the term of art. It’s also a possibility that we will have a lone actor a lone wolf decide, ‘This is a great day to get some attention. I’m going to do something’.”

Some experts have warned that the federal bureaucracy often add layers of precautions but rarely goes back and takes a hard look at whether they’re necessary.

“When we implemented that three-ounce liquids ban in the summer of 2006, did I think that would be a forever thing? No,” Bush homeland security adviser Fran Townsend told POLITICO recently. “It has to do with the complacency and laziness of the bureaucracy.”

(HT: @normative)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. “Some experts have warned that the federal bureaucracy often add layers of precautions but rarely goes back and takes a hard look at whether they’re necessary.”

    That is true of most large companies. Once something goes wrong they implement a “process” to prevent it from occurring again. Seldom does anyone examine the odds of it happening again or the cost of implementing the process versus just fixing the problem the rare times it occurs.

    As a former government employee (DOD) and 11+ in private industry, things aren’t always different. Just usually more job protection in government.

    As a guy the liquid issue isn’t much of a problem but for many women it seems to be a huge issue.

    With TSA I just wish supervisors would stop immediately supporting employees who cross the line and instead take a more objective view. In many cases of poor behavior by TSA employees, if a supervisor would have stepped in and stopped it, things would have been much better.

  2. I’ve never understood why shoes are required to be removed in the US. Elsewhere, shoes can stay on, unless they are particularly bulky. AFAIK, the security elsewhere is just as tight, if not tighter.

  3. I agree with NB. The new full body scanners can’t detect if something is inside the shoe? Do metal detectors not work on shoes?

    I do not understand the need to have shoes taken off at the airport.

  4. I would like to invite Ms. Napolitano to come visit me in the EU. It’s so much more civilized going through airport security when you can keep your footware on, and I don’t see any reason why LHR would be less of a target than JFK or IAD. As NB notes, the only people I see taking off their shoes at LHR (or anywhere I’ve flown in the EU or Middle East) are those with bulky things like boots on.

  5. Back in the ’90 the metal detectors didn’t work as low as shoes, so a terrorist was able to smuggle a detonator through security in the sole of his shoe. In shampoo and eye saline bottles he snuck through chemicals that when combined created an explosive cocktail. Thankfully the idiot sat a couple seats in front of the fuel tanks on a 747 of the bomb killed a man and damaged flight controls in stead of taking out the whole plane. These rules aren’t without precedent.

  6. Typical! The US has to invest in expensive new technology when the rest of the world simply uses intelligence to keep shoes on feet.

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