Tuesday, October 16, 2007

We're Ba-ack

Hi all. After a 10 day assault on the French language, we have returned from the Province of Quebec. It was fabulous to see the historic sites and to experience an honest-to-goodness fall season. We also ate our fill of fattening food from Swiss fondue to cheese plates and plenty of French onion soup.

The plane travel was also relatively pleasant. The trip is only an hour and a half from gate to gate, and we were able to disembark at National, collect our baggage, and return home by Metro within an hour of landing. However, we did experience some unusual security measures.

The departure area for our return flight was a human corral; after arriving at the gate a half hour early, as required, our passports were checked for a third time by security personnel. Some passengers were pulled aside at this checkpoint for random bag screenings. We then entered a sterile gate area with no trash cans and no bathrooms. During the boarding process, our passports were then checked a fourth time and compared to the passenger manifest. We couldn't help but notice that Denver-bound travelers did not appear to go through the same rigamorale; we stared jealously as they freely roamed the terminal.

After we boarded an inspector of some sort searched the bathroom and the cockpit thoroughly and spoke at length to the crew, which seemed interesting for a 26 passenger plane flying such a short distance. In all the search delayed us a half hour past our scheduled departure time. I am, however, grateful for one thing: the restriction against leaving your seat within a half hour of landing at National has been lifted.

The whole experience left us wondering if there was some sort of specific threat to DC-bound flights. Has anyone else had an experience similar to ours? We're just curious if we can expect this sort of security on subsequent trips. We're also unsure if the measures taken are that protective: Can't passports be faked? Are random bag searches as unproductive as some say? Can one person successfully detect a sabotaged plane with a half hour visual inspection?

In unrelated news, I unfortunately lost my aunt to organ failure two days before returning home. Accordingly, postings will be somewhat less frequent in the coming days. Thanks for your well wishes. We'll be back soon with more editorializing.


La Petite Princess said...

That's interesting about the security measures. On traveling from Montreal to D.C. about 5 years ago, the officer checking tickets as we went through security looked at my ticket at said, "Oh, D.C.!" and ushered me along to a separate security screening area. But that was relatively soon after 9/11 (2 years). I guess Canada just really doesn't want to be responsible for letting a terrorist on a plane to D.C.

Anonymous said...

I came from Montreal to DC a few months ago and almost missed my flight because of extra screening. By Customs. They seemed concerned that was bringing in cheese illegally (I was coming from England). But maybe there was some other reason and there is some strange Montreal/DC thing going on.

14th & You said...

In your case, anonymous, you may have been flagged by the "cheese threat." A few months ago, US gov't folks announced that terrorists may be conducting drills in order to later get plastic explosives onto planes. It was (is?) believed that potential terrorists were testing the waters using cheese and other "clay like" substances. One Wash Post reader reported all hell breaking loose when he had a phone charger taped to a plastic bag of cheese in his checked luggage.