Safer Air Travel: Separate Flights for Luggage?

August 28th, 2004

Here’s an idea to help reduce the threat of terrorism against airplanes, and to speed up those long lines at airport security: Separate flights for luggage on high-risk routes.

For example, let’s say you are flying from NYC to LAX, a “high risk route.” When you check-in, before going through security, your bags are checked through to LAX. However, instead of going on your flight (or any other “passenger flight”) your bags (including all checked bags AND smaller “carry-on” bags too — no carry-ons are permitted on the passenger flight) are loaded onto an hourly “luggage flight” that only carries luggage. Every hour this luggage flight flies from NYC to LAX carrying all the luggage from all different airlines’ flights from NYC to LAX that was checked in in the previous hour. So everyone’s bags arrive at just about the time they arrive at LAX. Since there are no passengers on the luggage flight, if there happens to be a bomb in someone’s luggage it will have minimal effect (the pilots of the luggage flight, but not hundreds of passengers at least). Since the potential damage of blowing up such a flight is minimal, terrorists would not be likely to bother and so this would in turn reduce the chances of there being a bomb in any luggage on the NYC to LAX route — what would be the point of blowing up a flight full of luggage? And as a result of this, although luggage should still be scanned prior to being loaded onto the luggage flight, even if a bag was not scanned the chances would be very low that it would contain a bomb. Now as for the “passenger flight” since passengers would not be permitted to bring carry-ons on the flight (or would have to agree to go through mandatory extra-extensive 15 minute screening at security, if they elect to bring carry-ons), the job of airport security would be much simpler because most people would not elect to bring carryons (for passengers to have encough confidence to check what they would normally carry-on, the security of carry-ons that are checked onto the baggage flight must be guaranteed and insured to full value). This in turn would free up security personnel to spend more time doing body scan screening and identity checking, making the whole process of airport security more effective.