I am glad Continental Airlines has finally apologized for frisking former President APJ Abdul Kalam. I was quite shocked at the airlines’ earlier statement, where they had stood by their decision to frisk, citing that it was standard TSA requirement.
The frisking might have been a mistake, but standing by it only made things worse for Continental.
To start with, the incident happened in India, not in the US, and TSA certainly has no jurisdiction in India. An airline can follow TSA requirements as long as it does not conflict with local laws. Obviously, when Continental had a specific notification from the Govt. of India as to whom not to frisk while in India, isn’t that the law they were supposed to follow?
Secondly, TSA requirements in the US do ask you to remove your shoes and pass through a metal detector. But the hand-held wand and the full body check that Abdul Kalam underwent is not routine practice here in the US; it is only done if you are singled out for additional screening. TSA may have a more stringent practice for international travelers, but again, that would be a practice, not a law, and I cannot see how any airline would willfully ignore local laws to the contrary.
Besides, for all the moral high ground that Continental was taking about how they were only following standard TSA requirements and treating everyone equally, I strongly suspect that they would never have treated a former US President the same way (the Secret Service coverage alone would probably have ensured that).
I am a little surprised that no Continental Airlines employee in Delhi recognized the former President – surely Continental has some Indian employees?
Finally, I wonder how an Indian owned airline like Jet Airways would have handled the situation. Would it have ignored the Indian Govt.’s rules and stuck to TSA requirements? Would it have been quicker to apologize for the lapse? Your thoughts?