Thursday, December 28, 2006

Inhospitable welcome at Fort Lauderdale Airport

The following is a response to a recent letter to the editor published in the Miami Herald.

After reading the December 15th letter (Inhospitable welcome at Fort Lauderdale Airport), we thought it was important to clarify the security precautions and rules in place to protect travelers. The current Federal government alert level at our nation’s airports prohibits any car from sitting at a terminal for any period of time. Broward County also has ordinances that prohibit parking or sitting in front of terminals.

We all sympathize with the prior writer’s frustrations regarding his friend’s lost luggage and his attempt to park and wait for him outside the terminal. The holiday travel season is often a stressful time. It would, of course, be easier if we were allowed to park and wait at the terminals. Unfortunately, the reality we now live in no longer permits such a casual approach to security. The fact is that no deputy, officer or federal agent responsible for airport security can ever know the true intentions of anyone who has stopped his car beside an airport terminal. If a car is parked without someone getting in or out, it must be viewed with a suspicious eye. The rules, while perhaps frustrating to the well-intentioned, are meant to frustrate the efforts of individuals whose intentions are more sinister.

The writer’s inconvenience of being asked to move his car was probably minimal compared to the delays we might all experience if federal rules required each car to be searched before entering the airport. Such a time-consuming inspection might be the only way to ensure a vehicle is safe. As an alternative, the airport provides a free cell phone waiting lot as well as 15 minutes of free parking in short term lots to accommodate those meeting arriving passengers.

Security measures not withstanding, there are also simple traffic concerns with allowing drivers to wait outside terminals. On an average day, over sixty-thousand people pass through the airport. Imagine the congestion that would be created if drivers were allowed to wait for arriving passengers in their cars outside the terminals.

Of course no one likes to receive a traffic ticket, but the previous writer’s ticket was probably based on his repeated disregard for the rules (he admitted at least five attempts at stopping in front of the terminal). As for the noticeable police presence mentioned by the writer, it is both a comfort to travelers as well as an effective deterrence to criminals.