9/11 Widow Misses Alec Baldwin's Point About Air Travel

alec baldwinThe fun surrounding Alec Baldwin's showdown with American Airlines just doesn't stop. The actor wrote a column on HuffPo yesterday, apologizing to other passengers but intensifying his battle with the airline over the dispute. He discussed how he believes that in the wake of September 11th (which he calls a "horrific day in the airline industry"), "carriers and airports have used that as an excuse to make the air travel experience as inelegant as possible." Unfortunately, the remark struck a nerve with someone Baldwin never meant to offend -- a 9/11 widow.

Cheryl McGuinness Hutchins, whose husband was in the cockpit of the first plane to hit the World Trade Center, told TMZ she found Baldwin's statement "inappropriate" and said, "Airlines used what happened on 9/11 to increase security and protect passengers as much as possible -- not to make traveling inelegant."

While this is understandably a sensitive subject, I have to respectfully say Hutchins missed Alec's point.


Of course I understand where she is coming from, and it is fair to think maybe flight attendants just don't have the time they once had to fuss about with serving first class passengers shrimp cocktails anymore when they're much more focused on security. But at the same time, I definitely agree with Alec that airlines, as well as the Transportation Security Administration, continue to lean on 9/11 as an excuse for acting like all passengers are potential criminals.

I'm sure I'm not alone in believing the security measures they make us go through at the airports are 95 percent window-dressing. And yet, there we are, with our arms above our heads being radiated or having to strip down in private rooms, being treated like we're all potential bombers. On the plane, some flight attendants do act, as Baldwin said, like 5th grade gym teachers, treating passengers like "bad kids" if they dare attempt to stretch one second too soon or go to the bathroom when the "fasten seat belt" sign is lit. (Like having a full bladder is a crime, pfft!)

I understand the concerns -- that person getting up when the seat belt light is on could be a threat -- but that doesn't make it any less frustrating that flying these days is a far, dismal cry from what it used to be. Of course, the floundering economy and major cost cutting in the airline industry are to blame as well, but security still factors in to this sad state in which airlines treat passengers like we should just feel lucky to be flying (in 6-inch-by-6-inch seats with 8 inches of legroom and $3 peanuts) at all.

There just has to be a better way to bring security and "elegance" together. I'm not talking about flight attendants being so distracted with kissing passengers' butts that they can't focus on preventing breaches of security. But maybe they could start by treating us less like cattle and more like human beings.

For the record, a source close to Baldwin said the actor "had absolutely no intention of offending families, victims, or anyone else associated with the horrible tragedy of 9/11. He only referenced that date in relation to discussion of the resulting impact on the airline industry."

Do you agree that airlines use 9/11 as an excuse to make flying an unenjoyable experience, or do you think the cutbacks are a fair trade-off for heightened security?


Image via David Shankbone/Flickr

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