To protect the nation’s air travelers, federal air marshals deployed after the 2001 terrorist attacks try to travel incognito, often in pairs, and choose flights identified with the potential to fall under threat. And they almost always fly first class—something some airlines would like to change. With cockpit doors fortified and a history of attackers choosing coach seats, some airline executives and security experts question whether the first-class practice is really necessary—or even a good idea. It could weaken security by isolating marshals or making them easier for terrorists to identify, airline executives say. With more threats in the coach cabin now, first-class clustering may not make as much security sense. Security experts say bombers are a bigger threat today than knife-wielding attackers trying to get through secure cockpit doors, and Transportation Security Administration checkpoints are heavily focused on explosives, whether hidden in shoes, liquids or under clothes. Some believe bombers try to target areas over the wing—a structurally critical location and also the site of fuel storage—to cause the most damage to the aircraft. …By law, airlines must provide seats to marshals at no cost in any cabin requested. With first-class and business-class seats in particular, the revenue loss to airlines can be substantial because they can’t sell last-minute tickets or upgrades, and travelers sometimes get bumped to the back or lose out on upgrade opportunities. When travelers do get bumped, airlines are barred from divulging why the first-class seat was unexpectedly taken away.
First Class Bureaucrats, Coach Class Taxpayers
October 8, 2010 by Dan Mitchell
Here’s a story I got from the Advice Goddess twitter feed. It seems airlines are upset that federal air marshals almost always grab first class seats. This isn’t good for airlines, since it uses up seats that they need for paying customers. It’s not good for security since the main threat in on-board explosives carried by terrorists who want to sit over the wings. And it’s not good for Dan Mitchell since it means he’s less likely to get upgraded when the good seats are occupied by bureaucrats. Since I’m waiting for a flight to Australia, you can guess which upsets me the most. Here’s a blurb from the Wall Street Journal story.