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Just grin and bare it

How to stay abreast of airline security 30,000ft aloft and what to do with soiled baby nappies if cabin crew get antsy - or the pilot's asleep.

Vijay Verghese/ Editor

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TRAVELLERS BEWARE, SECURITY is tightening up everywhere. Soon it will be impossible to enter airports unless you happen to be a card-carrying Republican Bubba from Texas. "Whaddya mean no dawgs allowed. This ain't no dawg, it's mah wife." "I beg ya pardon suh, in ya go, and here's a nail-clippuh."

Understandably, irate business travellers are taking matters into their own hands. Here's one encouraging news report. "Kahului Airport, Maui, 1 March, 2004: A man crashed his SUV into the airport terminal and drove right up to the Northwest Airlines ticket counter."

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You have to admit this is a heck of a lot better than spending hours in a queue being fingerprinted and photographed. This man was in a hurry. Realising he couldn't park the car there, in a flash of genius he set it alight. Police ruled out terrorism as the man, armed with only a cigarette lighter and a fully fuelled car, did not have any nail-clippers or cans of shaving foam on his person.

Mayday, mayday, baby's botty at 3-o-clock and approaching fast, will need gas mask, barf bag and clean Huggies

Security people had no qualms busting a lady terrorist on a Continental flight. As one newspaper reported: "Deborah Wolfe, a Canadian citizen who was breast-feeding her son and changing his diaper, says her ‘subversive' actions led to her being threatened with detainment, police involvement and legal charges for terrorist action against a US citizen in international airspace while on an American flight during a time of war." Phew. Ms Wolfe says the man sitting next to her, presumably a US citizen and a weenie to boot, complained. When cabin staff were unable to persuade her to use the toilet or cover up with a blanket, a Level 2 crew complaint was filed. "Mayday, mayday, baby's botty at 3-o-clock and approaching fast."

Breast-feeding in public is clearly an act of naked aggression but changing diapers aloft is diabolical. Anybody who's dealt with the rich emanations from a baby's behind will know what I mean. This is biological warfare at its most potent. Continental later stated that while the airline did not have a policy banning breast-feeding aloft, in the event of a passenger complaint, nursing mothers would have to move to the toilet. The toilet? This is a confined space where it is illegal to smoke. The combustive power of concentrated diaper fumes that could be set alight by the slightest spark of static electricity - leave alone the effect on the next occupant - is mind-boggling.

But who would irate passengers complain to on Japan's All Nippon Airlines? Certainly not the pilot. The airline said one of its pilots has been grounded, after he "dozed off in front of a government transportation official" who was onboard for a routine flight inspection. The inspector awakened him but he dozed off again. The co-pilot finally yelled at him. The government has ordered an official investigation. Absolutely. Yelling, 30,000ft aloft, is deplorable.

Texas is a lot more relaxed. If you're a card-carrying redneck Republican just walk into any airport and see for yourself. "Welcome y'all, and howdy missus." "MISSUS? Hot-damn. That's not mah wife, that's mah dawg..." SPLAT. Well, the state that gave the world George Bush, Star Wars Defence and some nifty jokes, has a travel agency that runs what it terms "clothing-optional holidays". It recently claimed to have arranged the world's first "nude flight". Hello people. Drop Continental and book with Houston's own Castaway Travel. Their charter flights feature "professionally dressed" cabin crew. Passengers must be decently attired for take-off and landing but when the plane reaches cruising altitude, passengers shed clothes and inhibitions. The pilots stay awake.

When the plane reaches cruising altitude, passengers shed their clothes, and inhibitions. Welcome to "clothing optional holidays"

According to the agency's owner James Bailey, "Inappropriate behaviour is not condoned. This is not a Mile High Club." The Federal Aviation Administration adds, "We have no regulations pertaining to nudity on board an aircraft. It's not a safety issue." But what if Deborah Wolfe found out and, shock horror, decided to bare all yet again, revealing her WMD (Weapons of Mass Distraction)? Presciently, Singapore's Coffee Bean took a strong stand against terrorism some years back when it disallowed breast-feeding at its outlets. Outraged lactating mothers descended on Coffee Bean, adding new connotations to café au lait.

Not surprisingly then, people everywhere have had to take a firm stand against the rot. An American Airlines pilot on a recent flight from Los Angeles to New York, asked Christians to identify themselves by raising their hands. They were not fed to the lions, which would have been a great advertising - and international relations - ploy. Firm but fair. The pilot then encouraged his Christian passengers to spread the gospel, "You have a choice: you can make this trip worthwhile, or you can sit back, read a book and watch the movie."

Meanwhile commuters at England's Bournemouth station were offered this life-saving announcement: "The train now arriving on platform one is on fire. Passengers are advised not to board this train." Gee thanks! Travel safe. And watch those breasts.

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