Sunday musings: Tasered by airport secrity for swearing, Southwest is true to itself, faceless airports


Tasered by airport security — enough is enough. Shame on you!

This Sunday we have more thought-provoking stories from the world of travel. TSA and airport security end up tasering a drunk at the airport. Is there any excuse for that kind of action? Southwest stays true to itself, even though pundits thought the Boeing 717 might fit into the Southwest culture. Not! And finally, we find out that we may be replaceable. Avatars begin replacing customer service reps in New York City airports.

Normally, this story might find its way into the normal What We’re Reading column, but I find it disturbing and worthy of more thought than a simple news item. In a recent column, I asked, “What kind of children are we (is TSA) raising?” Incidents like the one described below underscore the cultural abyss into which we as a society are descending.

There is no excuse for treating a fellow American, albeit drunk, like this. It is shameful, absolutely shameful.

Witnesses said the man began using profane language while at a security checkpoint to Concourse B at the airport, 2077 Airport Drive. The checkpoint is for passengers waiting to board a flight and the man is accused of saying, “What do you think? I have a bomb?”

The man, from Middle Island, N.Y., was detained in a second-floor conference room, where officers say he began resisting arrest. A Taser device was then deployed on the back of the man’s upper right and left legs before he was taken into custody.

Southwest is being true to itself — it subleases all 88 AirTran 717s aircraft to Delta

Here is a story about a corporation that is being true to its founding tenets that have propelled it to continuous profits while the rest of the airline industry has lost billions. When Southwest purchased AirTran last year, there were many questions about what the airline would do with the Boeing 717s that didn’t mesh with the Southwest mantra of one type of aircraft. Now we have the answer.

There may be something here that we can reflect on as we live and work in our everyday life.

Southwest Airlines (SWA) has reached a tentative agreement with Delta Air Lines (DL) and Boeing Capital Corp. to sublease all 88 AirTran (FL) Boeing 717 aircraft to DL, transitioning three aircraft per month over a three-year period beginning in the second half of 2013.

SWA said it currently plans to keep its total fleet count “relatively flat” as the 717s transition to DL, and will replace FL 717 flying with 737 aircraft. It will maintain service to all previously announced airports, it stressed.

Faceless but connected: Welcome to Airport 2025

The Model-T replaced the horse buggy. Airplanes took over from ships for most transatlantic crossings. Rotary-dial phones are all but gone. And now, airport customer service reps may be finding themselves in the process of being replaced. Can we be far behind? Airports are going self-service. Soon we won’t see a human until we get on the plane.

I included a random post about robotic sex recently. Pilot-less drones are stalking us from the heavens. And how many calls do you get from computers?

Airlines will know automatically if customers are delayed in traffic and, if necessary, rebook their flight, says Amadeus, author of the May 24 report, “Reinventing the Airport Ecosystem.” Premium travelers won’t even need to incur the inconvenience of passing through a terminal — they will check-in off-site and pass through a virtual screening process en-route.

Promotional offers pinged onto travelers’ smartphones — in response to their location, or as a softener after a flight delay — are likely to increase exponentially as travel providers try to, in the words of the report, “own and engage” their customers, who are sure to demand an optional opt-out from this communication.

Personal devices are set to become far more important than mere notification receptacles; Near Field Communication technology embedded in passengers’ smartphones or travel documents will fast-track them through check-in and airport touch-points.