Trapped in Haiti by airport security regulations

The Miami Herald‘s Douglas Hanks reports that U.S. commercial flights into Haiti are returning to the United States empty: Though Spirit, American and other major airlines have used passenger planes to fly cargo into Port-au-Prince since the quake, the planes almost always return to the States with hundreds of empty seats, airline spokesmen said. After ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
U.S. Navy via Getty Images
U.S. Navy via Getty Images
U.S. Navy via Getty Images

The Miami Herald's Douglas Hanks reports that U.S. commercial flights into Haiti are returning to the United States empty:

Though Spirit, American and other major airlines have used passenger planes to fly cargo into Port-au-Prince since the quake, the planes almost always return to the States with hundreds of empty seats, airline spokesmen said.

After the quake, U.S. authorities banned commercial air travel from the Port-au-Prince airport, citing the airport's inability to clear passengers for flights. That screening includes putting passengers through metal detectors and checking them against federal terrorist-watch lists....

The Miami Herald‘s Douglas Hanks reports that U.S. commercial flights into Haiti are returning to the United States empty:

Though Spirit, American and other major airlines have used passenger planes to fly cargo into Port-au-Prince since the quake, the planes almost always return to the States with hundreds of empty seats, airline spokesmen said.

After the quake, U.S. authorities banned commercial air travel from the Port-au-Prince airport, citing the airport’s inability to clear passengers for flights. That screening includes putting passengers through metal detectors and checking them against federal terrorist-watch lists….

The empty planes could easily be filled as Americans and others stuck in Haiti before the quake scramble for seats on departing flights flown by the military and private relief agencies.

"People are always calling us” for Haiti flights, Spirit spokeswoman Misty Pinson said. "We’re inundated.”

But major carriers use computer systems to clear passengers, and the Port-au-Prince terminal housing airline operations was severely damaged in the quake. The carriers also fly large jets — the Spirit flight Monday had 145 seats — that would pose a bigger risk if hijacked.

Given State clearance, Spirit was able to give seats to 41 U.S. college students and Fox News’s Geraldo Riviera (go figure) on Monday. 

I understand that security rules can’t be compeltely thrown out in the event of a crisis, but surely some workaround could have been found. Couldn’t passengers have been patted down in Port-au-Prince rather than put through a metal detector? Couldn’t they have been checked against the watchlist after arriving at their destination? In any event, I’m sure all involved would be willing to assume a slightly higher level of hijack risk given the circumstances.

Preventing people (not named Geraldo) from leaving a disaster area because of these security rules seems completely unreasonable.  

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

More from Foreign Policy

A Panzerhaubitze 2000 tank howitzer fires during a mission in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.
A Panzerhaubitze 2000 tank howitzer fires during a mission in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.

Lessons for the Next War

Twelve experts weigh in on how to prevent, deter, and—if necessary—fight the next conflict.

An illustration showing a torn Russian flag and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
An illustration showing a torn Russian flag and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

It’s High Time to Prepare for Russia’s Collapse

Not planning for the possibility of disintegration betrays a dangerous lack of imagination.

An unexploded tail section of a cluster bomb is seen in Ukraine.
An unexploded tail section of a cluster bomb is seen in Ukraine.

Turkey Is Sending Cold War-Era Cluster Bombs to Ukraine

The artillery-fired cluster munitions could be lethal to Russian troops—and Ukrainian civilians.

A joint session of Congress meets to count the Electoral College vote from the 2008 presidential election the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol  January 8, 2009 in Washington.
A joint session of Congress meets to count the Electoral College vote from the 2008 presidential election the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol January 8, 2009 in Washington.

Congrats, You’re a Member of Congress. Now Listen Up.

Some brief foreign-policy advice for the newest members of the U.S. legislature.