Oh, the horror!
There’s an excellent Wall Street Journal article today by Scott McCartney discussing airlines rallying for air marshals to be seated at least partly in coach instead of mostly in first class. It’s a good read and has some interesting facts I wasn’t aware of.
Now it’s no secret that I find the air marshal program to be a total waste of taxpayer dollars. In theory it’s not necessarily a bad idea, but the wankers the government has flying around really aren’t an asset to our national security. Hell, I’ve witnessed air marshals bragging to their seatmates about how they’re air marshals. Brilliant! Actually, I feel less safe when air marshals are on a plane, because they stick out like soar thumbs (yes, you, with the Play Station portable, Hawaiian shirt, and bulge, while you’re not reclining your seat, choosing to drink water the whole flight, and having an odd familiarity with the crew, while seeming distant)
The motives of the airlines are clear — it’s expensive to give air marshals first class on any flight they want for free, especially as first class cabins continue to shrink. And it makes sense that they should be angry about that. It’s not like the airlines are making billions of dollars. Of course they won’t admit that, so instead they say this:
“Our concern is far less revenue and more that we have defenses appropriate to the threat,” said James May, chief executive of the Air Transport Association, the airline industry’s lobbying group. “We think there needs to be an even distribution, particularly when we have multiple agents on board.”
And of course the air marshals couldn’t care less about first class. It’s all about safety for them. Here’s their story:
Mr. Minerly says the practice of placing marshals in first class is essential in an attack in which seconds matter. “Our distinction isn’t for a free ride in a fluffy seat. It’s based on threat and tactical doctrines,” he said. In most cases, the marshal service designates which cabin marshals will fly in, Mr. Minerly said, with seating assigned to “maximize the effectiveness of the team.” Move “further and further back in the plane” and “it will take longer and longer to respond.”
I hate to even analyze this and take sides, because I’m convinced it’s time for the program to end. But let me try and be reasonable here. If you’re going to have air marshals on a flight, it makes sense to have one with easy access to the flight deck (so being seated in first class is fine). At the same time, most of the action is happening in coach, so it makes a LOT more sense to me that the others would ride in the back of the bus. I’ve been on a flight with four air marshals in first class, and couldn’t help but shake my head for the whole two hour flight. It’s pathetic. If you’re going to run this program, the more eyes and ears you can have throughout the cabin, the better. But that’s not the way to maximize comfort, of course…