Wednesday, January 11, 2006

"Dear Bill..."

By now most frequent air travelers have been frisked, or have had their belongings searched at least once by TSA at security checkpoints. At the least, we've witnessed this happening to some fellow traveler. Some of these checks are random, and some are "for cause," but in one instance at LAX last year an inspector got it really wrong.

An article on Australia's Herald Sun website relates a tale that matches -- and maybe surpasses -- the now legendary incident in which U.S. Senator John Glenn was asked to remove his shoes at a Washington airport.

Margaret Jackson, the chairman of Qantas Airways, was questioned at a security point at Los Angeles International Airport after a TSA inspector found her to be in possession of "detailed plans of new aircraft, including cross-section diagrams showing seat layouts."
"The guy said `Why have you got all of this?'," she told the Herald Sun.

"And I said, `I'm the chairman of an airline. I'm the chairman of Qantas'."
The inspector challenged her, apparently in disbelief that a woman could be the chairman of an airline such as Qantas. Ultimately she was able to prove her identity, thereby justifying her possession of those detailed aviation documents.
Mrs Jackson, who was traveling with her husband, said her LA experience took about an hour.

After proving her identity, Mrs Jackson produced paper with her letterhead on it and wrote a note to the guard, whose name was Bill.

"And I wrote, `Dear Bill, this is from the chairman of Qantas, who is a woman'."