Last week's stolen plane tragedy in Seattle made for great television. It also scared some travelers. But let's call it what it was: a fluke.
We were captivated last week when an Alaska Air Group employee stole an airplane, flew it over Seattle as fighter jets followed, and crashed it into a sparsely populated island.
It had all the aspects we want in a news story. It was rare and sensational, and because the pilot had been talking with air traffic controllers, television news had audio to play, over and over again.
Since then, news organizations have asked how this could happen, and whether airports will increase screening measures.
They are worthy questions, but this incident, while scary, is probably a fluke. And even if it isn’t, there’s probably not much airport officials can do to stop a copycat effort. As the Seattle Times reported this week, roughly 13,000 people have access to aircraft on the ramp, and not all can be policed at every moment. It might be futile to even try.
Passengers want to think airports are 100 percent safe, but we know that’s not true. Life is about managing risks, and that’s as true at airports as at sports stadiums or shopping malls. Airports could institute harsh security measures, but they’d likely annoy everyone, and they probably wouldn’t work. It is difficult, if not impossible, to try to determine when an otherwise reliable employee might crack.
What do you think? Can we just call this a fluke and move on?
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Singapore Air Wins World Airlines Awards as Delta, American, and United Fall Behind: Earlier this month I was interviewed by a Forbes contributor who wanted to know why U.S. airlines don’t do well in the annual Skytrax rankings of the world’s best airlines. Putting aside the suspect nature of the ratings — Is Lufthansa, a fine airline, really a five-star carrier? — I explained it’s nearly impossible for airlines like United, Delta, and American to compete on product with ANA or Emirates. U.S. carriers need to be all things to all people, unlike some foreign carriers, which can focus on luxury.
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Skift Aviation Business Editor Brian Sumers [[email protected]] curates the Skift Airline Innovation Report. Skift emails the newsletter every Wednesday. Have a story idea? Or a juicy news tip? Want to share a memo? Send him an email or tweet him.
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Photo credit: Workers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport area walk near a screening area on Monday. Last week, a Alaska Air Group employee stole a turboprop and flew it over Seattle. Elaine Thompson / Associated Press