The latest battleground for sky marshals – first class or coach?

Interesting piece in the WSJ from Scott McCartney about a row brewing in the US about where sky marshals sit onboard the aircraft - which apparantly on security grounds is mostly up in the front rather than that at the back of the bus.

It raises an interesting debate, which you could either cynically view as cost-cutting airlines and sky marshals fighting over whether they get a hot towel or not, or as a debate over the most effective location to post sky marshals onboard the aircraft, and indeed the overall importance of sky marshals in countering terrorism plots.

Anyway, here’s a quick taster of the WSJ piece and a link to the full story.

To protect the nation’s air travelers, federal air marshals deployed after the 2001 terrorist attacks try to travel incognito, often in pairs, and choose flights identified with the potential to fall under threat

And they almost always fly first class–something some airlines would like to change. With cockpit doors fortified and a history of attackers choosing coach seats, some airline executives and security experts question whether the first-class practice is really necessary–or even a good idea. It could weaken security by isolating marshals or making them easier for terrorists to identify, airline executives say.

With more threats in the coach cabin now, first-class clustering may not make as much security sense. Security experts say bombers are a bigger threat today than knife-wielding attackers trying to get through secure cockpit doors, and Transportation Security Administration checkpoints are heavily focused on explosives, whether hidden in shoes, liquids or under clothes. Some believe bombers try to target areas over the wing–a structurally critical location and also the site of fuel storage–to cause the most damage to the aircraft.



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