Fear of Flying, Again

That Nigerian man who allegedly tried to set off his explosive underwear has thrown the whole airport security screening system into a tizzy.

He was on a watch list, along with more than a half-million other people, but he was not on the no-fly list of about 4,000 people, evidently because there wasn't enough information to justify grounding him.

Even without that information, this man had paid cash for a one-way ticket to the U.S. and hadn't checked any luggage. How many red flags did someone need to put out an arm and say, ''Whoa there, you -- not so fast''? Five weeks before the 9/11 attacks, ringleader Mohamed Atta went to pick up a co-conspirator who was flying into the Orlando airport -- but the man wasn't allowed into the country. He couldn't speak English, much less explain what he was doing in the U.S. -- and he had bought a one-way ticket.

Once the Nigerian suspect was on the plane, the fact that he stayed in the lavatory for a reported 20 minutes should have triggered some concern -- maybe even another red flag. If I'm in the in-flight loo for more than three minutes, there's a line forming outside, and after five minutes, someone usually starts hammering on the door to get me out.

So henceforth, travelers flying here from abroad have to suck it up, in the words of a Michigan congressman. New rules restrict even more what passengers can and cannot do on a plane. Is this really an appropriate response, given that the real problem here was a man who should never have been allowed to get on a plane in the first place?

If you're flying here from abroad, you cannot, in the last hour of the flight, have anything on your lap, not even a blanket. No getting into your carry-on and no trips to the toilet. [See, your mother was right: she told you to go to the bathroom before you left Europe.]

On the upside, the struggling airlines, always looking for new revenue, may be able to install pay toilets right there in the seats.

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