It’s not unusual to encounter a few hiccups in even the most well-structured of travel plans. Hotel reservations falling through, overbooked flights, and the unexpected often come together to form little headaches in our holidays. All these minor inconveniences pale, however, in comparison to perhaps the most startling news one can receive at the airport’s security checkpoint: you’re on the no-fly list.
There’s simply no question about it – standing there with your shoes off in front of a metal detector while a security guard mutters something into his walkie-talkie, eyes darting from your passport to your perplexed face, will make for a bad start to a return trip home.
While most of us will never feel the scrutiny of Homeland Security’s ever-expanding hold on who gets to board an airplane, there will always be an unlucky few who serve as a reminder of the influence of the no-fly list. On Wedneday, June 30th, a lawsuit filed against the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration begged for an explanation as to why ten law-abiding United States citizens were being barred from returning home from their travels. The American Civil Liberties Union, who helped file the lawsuit, was appalled as to why the victims, many of whom have “Middle-Eastern sounding names,” were denied their right to fly.
This is not the first time the no-fly list has encountered criticism, yet it continues to be used as a way to keep track of who is allowed to fly, as well as keeping a tab on those unfortunate enough to find themselves on the list. Despite efforts to create reforms and stricter criteria for adding to the list, the number of names included seems to largely follow trends of both tranquility and turmoil.
When the Federal Aviation Administration announced in March of 2010 that it would eliminate a great deal of names from the list, it reduced the number from an overwhelming 20,000 to a modest 3,400. However, when Faisal Shahad managed to board a plane undetected after attempting to bomb Times Square, the criteria were once again tightened.
As of now, the stranded travelers still await a response from the Justice Department and the United States government. All are currently either forced to stay in the country they were visiting or in the United States, but until their voices are heard among the thousands of others on the no-fly list, it’s safe to say American Airlines won’t be their chosen form of transportation.