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Your views: How good is airline security?

A group of Sikh priests has exposed a gaping loophole in airport security after they boarded an Air New Zealand plane. They were carrying ceremonial daggers under their robes.

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Murray Olsen
I suggest that people who are worried about the level of security in Aotearoa, instead of suggesting that Sikhs and others go back to where they came from, should immediately emigrate to the US of A. They would no doubt feel safer and happier with the Department of Homeland Security looking after every detail of their lives. And their moving would probably raise the level of cultural understanding in both countries.

NZ Sikh
Im NZ born & bred but of Sikh descent & read this article with amazement. I travel extensively both internationally & domestically for work & appreciate the tight security provisions. I dont mind undergoing inconvenience if its going to assure the safety of myself & my fellow passengers. This is post 9/11 reality. Security on Air NZ link flights does not include the x-ray screening of passengers’ hand luggage or passing through metal detectors as is required before boarding larger jet-engined air craft. Its an anomaly & the reason why these gentlemen could walk on board with their ceremonial daggers unchecked. Its the standard procedure at the moment. The fact is, these gentlemen are aware that carrying blades on airplanes in the current environment is not allowed. Mr Singh is even quoted as saying that they usually stow their daggers (these are small 6 inch blades) in their hand luggage when traveling internationally. Why then should they mind if they are not allowed to do so on a domestic flight? I completely support the actions of the pilot & air crew in asking them to relinquish these daggers for the duration of the flight & then returning them upon landing. As long as it was done politely (as by all accounts it was), this was not racism as Mr Singh claims. It was just common sense. I also understand the reaction of Mr Singh’s fellow passengers. Mr Singh et al should not be so quick to play the race card here. These gentlemen should be aware that perception is reality & in the post-9/11 environment, we are all wary of others. Superficially, Sikh beads & turbans can be mistaken for the beards & turbans sported by extremist Islamic fundamentalists. It is unreasonable of Mr Singh & his friends to assume that the average passerby will be able to make the distinction. The responsible thing to do would have been for Mr Singh et al to acknowledge that the carrying on board of weapons, ceremonial or not, would make fellow passengers uncomfortable & to stow them in their checked luggage. When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

The little old lady wouldnt complain if the accused was a white person. Ever heard any fuss in the news or airport about a white man or woman aboard airplane? We all want security but why always non-white people are picked on? PS:A sensible person would notice the greatest risk to passengers in local flights is dilapidated airplanes.

A Chon
I fail to see how this is racism. I recently watched a 6 year old girl have her toy tennis racket taken off her by security before a flight because of security policy. If she can expect to lose a toy tennis racket because of security concerns, a group of grown men should expect to lose their very real daggers.

Matt Clifford
Isnt this New Zealand ? I keep having to remind myself. We have a completely useless judicial system, a soft and unorganised correctional system and absolutely no backbone when it comes to political correctness. I cant believe the person has no been arrested for carrying a concealed weapon, religous or not, werent the 911 guys religious too ? New Zealand, this is getting out of hand, Grow some backbone and stop being so naive. Its only a matter of time before we have terrorist activity happening here, and it will be a lot sooner if ridiculous religious practises such as this are given way too at the cost safety of the average Nzer.

Paul Paynter
I like the lack of security. I would rather take my chances than add a whole lot more queues and searches. In Napier you just stroll out onto the tarmac. It will probably change one day but I love living in a country where we dont worry about it too much. Long may it last.

I have travelled many times on small flights (the ones similar to the ones in this story) to all over NZ. I’ve never had to go through screening of any kind. At one level it can be worrying if one starts thinking of what all can possibly go wrong if appropriate checks are not put in place. But on another it gives me a feeling of safety rather than danger! It feels that that one is living in a country where there is no political/religious/economic motivations of the kind that necessitates such checks. I believe that New Zealand is a peace-loving, fair and just country. One has to always remind oneself of that fact.It is very easy to start thinking of the worst-case scenarios and become paranoid. Also, I dont think the issue is simply about foreigners pursuing their religious belief mindlessly (as some comments below seem to suggest). And attempts to steer the discussion on this issue towards that direction seems to miss the point completely.I think we all should feel proud, rather than get scandalized, that our short-haul domestic flights are safe enough to not warrant any major security checks. It really is remarkable, given the paranoia and fear that most of the world lives in.

Autumn Taylor
I am sorry, but the Sikh-with-knives issue has got nothing to do with 9/11 - it’s a plain old security issue, and to call it rascism is ludicrous. If my husband had his pocketknife removed from his baggage in 1991, and I had my tiny cross-stiching thread scissors removed in 1994 from my travel pack that fills in waiting time while travelling, please tell me this wasnt a racist insult, and that it wasnt connected to 9/11? Our small items weren’t worn openly on the body, werent ceremonial, but were very useful for the benign purposes we used them for.

If Jarnail Singh and his mates are not happy with our security (even though in this case not at its best) then they can stay out of our country!! This is not a race issue at all, it is about ensuring passages arrive safely to their destinations (national or nternational) and NZ does not encounter a major disaster like 9/11. If a person of different race had enter the plane with a knife in their jacket I would have expected the same response from the pilot! Why is it that other nationalities visiting our country have to use the race card if they do not get their own way, this is NZ, our rules apply, if they do not like it and do not want to adapt to our lifestyles then they can go back to their own country! I for one would not expect to be treated differently if i visited their country (and doubt they would blink an eye lid if asked).

It is quite simple really !!! If the individual does not like it, and believes that the action taken was racist , then he should get on the next plane back to where he came from – period. We do not these minority idiots who bleat like sheep and claim racist issues when they know they should even consider taking such an item on a plane Go back to where you came from , and sooner rather than later thanks.

When my friend has his shaving cream removed off him, how can we be ok with people taking daggers on board, religion or not. Its not racist or anything other then one rule for everyone. Isnt that the fairest?

Situation would not have arisen had the Sikh gentleman preferred to carry the Kirpan in his luggage like he does on international travel. To carry a Kirpan’ is one of the requirements in Sikh religion, however it is not known by general population just like many Sikhs would not know the code of conduct in other faiths like (say) Seventh Day Adventists , etc. This is not a racist incident. Lets not be paranoid about other people and on first instance try and treat them as we would like to be treated.

Gary Breed
It is simple. Some very few people want to cause chaos. We dont want chaos so we stick to the rules. No weapons or potential weapons on aircraft at any time. It is so easy to check them in.

Bill van den Burg
A knife is a knife is a knife, and in this day and age, its incredibly naive to think that you can go around carrying one on your person. Nowhere in the world would this be allowed. Good on Air New Zealand for the confiscation, and lets get over this political correctness and allowing every tinpot ethnicity doing what they want. What next?? AK47s in violin cases? New Zealand is still a western country and let other minorities conform to how we do things here.

How is it racism when it is clearly illegal for any person to carry sharp objects onto a plane. Have these gentlemen had their heads in the sand for the last 6 years? The fact that they attempted to carry them on board displays the upmost arrogance in my opinion. Anywhere else in the world they would have been detained for several days.

If the Sikh Priests know to take their Kirpans off for International flights why would they not bother to take them off on a domestic flight? Surely they realise the potential stress and upset they could cause by carrying them on a domestic flight?

Greg Soar
It would indeed be racism to allow one group of people to board planes with knives while another group must not. If murder was required for a religion would we allow those following that religion to murder freely? Would we allow them to scream racism? Enough is enough ... no weapons on planes no matter how religious some people assume it may be.

I find it gratifying that so many people are opposed to the excess security insanity that is the TSA in America these days. As one person pointed out, a small domestic flight simply isnt big or powerful enough to make a good weapon. I might also suggest that in this day and age no one will ever be able to successfully hijack a plane again - say someone did jump up with a knife, grab a stewardess, and demand access to the flight deck. Knowing what happened on 9-11, the life of one stewardess would be a small price to pay to say hundreds if not thousands of lives. Added to this the fact that NZ is a minor player in The War Against Terror (and notably anti-Bush) means that making a symbolic attack in NZ isnt going to be terribly effective. This Terrorism nonsense is a wonderful way to increase government powers and instil fear in the populace against a largely empty threat. And when will it be won? We knew we had beaten Japan when they accepted the terms of the Potsdam Declaration. But who speaks for global terrorism? This is a war that can never be won as there is no one to surrender, no guarantee that terrorism will never resurface. So the governments get to keep piling paranoia upon us, telling us they can save us, help us, protect us, if only we give them the power. That said, it was pretty naive to be able to expect to take a knife onto a plane. Its not a small pen-knife either, and I dont blame people for getting worried. Of course a real terrorist would never have made it obvious he was carrying a weapon, but it seems that this affair was handled quite well. Air NZ took care of the matter and Mr Singh is reported as saying they were very fair. He is concerned about the fuss made by one lady, but why should he be surprised or offended by that? Weapons and aircraft have never gone well together. Is that racism? No: simply ignorance of a religion that is quite minor in NZ indeed. And how far must we go to accommodate religious preferences? Why is religion seen as the one thing we cannot offend? There should be no sacred cows, and nor are Sikhs immune to political violence: Indira Gandhi was assassinated by Sikhs, after all. So in summary, this was a potential worry that was dealt with quietly and professionally stemming from a justified but far from extreme worry concerning weapons on a plane. If a Sikh cannot bear to be parted from his kirpan, there is always the option of taking transport where weapons are permitted - even renting a car and driving if nothing else serves. However Mr Singh does not seem to have minded being parted per se, so let those who are happy with the situation (no weapons on aircraft) take planes, and others not. What we absolutely cannot have is different rules for different folks.

Raj Subramanian
International Air Traffic has uniform security checks. Religion or no religion personal security is the centre of discussions world over. The Common Law allows personal freedom as long as it is not infringing others’ freedom.Therefore the flight security measures for not allowing daggers over a particular size in cabin luggage should be strictly followed. Here we are talking about allowing religious freedom of Kirpans in booked luggage. These things were thought about and discussed a lot in US 3 or 4 years ago. But NZ security is always lagging behind in understanding realities and putting systems in place. Wake up NZ aviation security.

Lax is hardly the word. I would say non existent would be more appropriate, I travel from Hamilton all the time and rarely see any security. With online booking I dont even need ID most times. If being some sort of religious figure means a whole group of you can wear daggers on a plane guess what the extremists will dress as!! One rule for all if I cant take my daggers on board on should be able to. Why anyone would need a dagger specifically designed for slitting throats beats me anyway

Yes, I think that daggers (or any weapons, whether symbolic or not) should be taken off any passenger, or put in the cargo luggage. If everyone is treated the same, then there can be no racial discrimination! Especially when safety is involved. What will be next?

Frank Irvine
Being a kiwi living here in Vancouver BC the above subject has not gone with out problems here as well.
The sikh can ride motorbikes with out a helmet&move freely about with the ceremonial Kirpan& is still a debate going on whether students can where them at school!(what next?) Walking around nude! Probably.
Be tough Kiwis.

Charles Seneviratne
I think the pilot of the aircraft did just right. I will be worried to travel with knife wielding person. If we do the right thing I think life will be comfortable for everyone. The right thing in this instance is to check-in the knives with the baggage (I understand they have done so on international flights). I think the procedures need to be improved so that the pilots need not necessarily get involved in this type of situations, which could be easily avoided through proper procedure. Fortunately these were definitely very good people making a very minor error in judgement.

Claire Oldfield
I dont think there is much ground for complaint from the Sikh passengers. Its not just a question of the threat of terrorism: daggers, religious or otherwise, are dangerous objects and, as such, need to be contained within an aircraft. The pilot would have been breaching safety laws to have allowed the daggers to remain unsecured on his aircraft. This has nothing to do with racism, terrorism or any other conjured up accusation: it is merely a matter of aviation law.

Michael Coote
Racism is the usual catchcry from ethnic minorities objecting to their duty to observe the same laws and regulations that apply to all of us. The real racism is the exceptionalism they demand for themselves.
Religion is no justification for special treatment either. It is simply a personal prejudice and should not excuse violation of civil aviation safety rules. The aircraft concerned was a public and secular place and not a place where persons could reasonably invoke religion to get different treatment. The irony is that if these Sikhs had seen other passengers boarding with weapons, they most likely would have complained too. The trust us, we know what we’re doing rationalisation for carrying potentially deadly weapons in the flight cabin does not wash. New Zealand is a secular state that rightly demands obedience to its laws regardless of the race or religion of persons concerned. Such persons - whether Sikhs or others - have come to the wrong country if they cannot accept equality before the law. It is their obligation to conform with our society, not our society’s to acquiesce to their self-serving demands for the right to decide which laws apply to them.

John Keene
I dont think the Sikh has been singled out. If no one is allowed to carry knives on planes there should be no exceptions - religious grounds or not. I think the passanger acted appropriately and she probably would have done the same thing if the individual concerned was of any other decent (I know I would). Air NZ acted appropriately and I commend them for that. As for airport security, this is a serious lapse and the sooner the bureaucrats (and NZ in general) wake up and get rid of the thought It wont happen here, we are to small, we have stayed out of the conflict the safer we will become.

Sam Jones
Noone, regardless of race or religion, is permitted to carry weapons on-board an aeroplane. Those involved may well feel that fellow passengers over-reacted but conversely they should never have supposed that their own actions, the carrying of knives onto a commercial flight, were at all acceptable. Certainly the American response supposed in the last paragraph would be an extreme over reaction. Thank common sense (these days so uncommon) the airline staff reacted effectively and positively. That said, were the offenders charged? If not, why not? And what sort of message does that send to others?

Julia Hill
These people think it is racism to ban this practise in our country? I suggest they go back to their own country, where, presumably, they can take their knives into planes.

Jerry Flay
There can be no debate - either knives are allowed or not - the religion or race of knife owners is irrelevant If this Sikh is claiming racial prejudice, he is only serving to encourage racial disharmony. We do not want people like that (whatever their race) in NZ.

Olmec Sinclair
The recent confiscation of ceremonial weapons from visiting foreigners is fully justified in my opinion. As a airline passenger I have had to forfeit a knife/utility tool key ring I owned. While I don’t believe these individuals posed a threat and I certainly don’t want to promote the paranoid acquisition of any potentially dubious character, I believe that everyone should be subject to equal treatment. It’s easy to feel victimised by security personnel (who are just doing a job) but if we allow for too much interpretation’ of the situation by these personnel we introduce a different and deeper issue. Equality is for all and any visitor should conform to the rules laid down by the host. Having said that I am unsure weather these gentlemen in question had their property returned. I sincerely hope so.

Megan Pitt
I am appalled. After being in Manhattan on 9/11 & witnessing the horrific events I am shocked NZ doesnt have basic security measures in place for domestic flights. Not even asking for photo ID? Whats going on?

Verpal Singh
The Sikh Centre

1. The issue should have ended with the statement of the officials responsible for making sure that everyone traveling via air in NZ does so in complete safety. The official position that there is no need for any review of the policies in place should be reassuring to us all that there is no reason for alarm.
2. These are the facts (without any inflection): some passengers saw something out of the ordinary and like responsible citizens reported it to the proper person (in this case the flight staff), and the proper authorities took the proper action according to rules(in this case asking the Sikh travellers to hadn over the Kirpans for the duration of the flight); the Sikh travellers in question complied with the genuine request.
3. In this whole issue, the only thing that can be termed the "cause" was the oversight of Sikh priests to put their Kirpans in their check-in luggage. Having spoken to the persons in question, I can assure you all that they are quite embarrassed that their oversight has caused so much trouble.
4. Please also understand that a Sikh wears (some keep it under their pillow) his/her Kirpan even when they go to bed at night. Hence it is just like a part of their body. This is the reason why the oversight occurred. And not due to any intention to break the rules.
5. Regarding the tougher security measures, I am sure a metal-detector would have beeped and reminded the persons in question to check-in their Kirpans with their luggage. But as post 9/11 events in London, Madrid, Baghdad, Kabul, etc. point out, best security comes from understanding and feeling of connection with fellow human-beings rather than by making the container more and more airtight to keep the steam in while doing nothing to douse the fire burning underneath.
6. To those blaming political correctness for everything, just a reminder -- when Ku Klux Klan ruled American South, it was politically incorrect to the extent of losing ones life, to interact with a "nigger"; when Hitler ruled Germany, it was politically incorrect to the extent of losing ones life, to say that what was happening to the "kike" was unjust. Political correctness works both ways -- I hope everyone understands that, because much good has happened by virtue of making some of our prejudices socially unacceptable.

Jim Hughes
How about a Kiwi with a jar of jam! My son Adam has just returned from London to Wellington for my Big 60 Birthday. He bought some quality Fortnums and Masons jam for me and asked the check in is it alright on the plane with my hand luggage She said Yes. Security said No! and confiscated it. This Sikh priest should get real" and stop tripping out the old racism Mantra.

KJ Singh
People are just paranoid.They need to be more aware of different religions and cultures. If it was a European sikh with a dagger the people wont panic as much. People with a turban are being stereotyped a terrorist. As a joke being mocked and also offending people with turban by accusing. People should not be worried about terror attacks in NZ even I can understand some peoples concern but they must control their emotion and follow ethical procedures so the suspect doesn’t get offended if he not a terrorist. especially if you are just assuming from a turban. Sikh community would appreciate if people would be made aware even though we wear turbans does not mean we are Muslims or terrorists. Because of misleading situations like this and no support from the government the kids of ethical looks and cultures are being made fun off which effect their life as they become adults. Politicians like Bob Clarkson are not helping by point out differences in culture and giving his own opinion about how the other cultures should act and do. No terrorist would waste is life on a small domestic flight especially is New Zealand.

Lou Harrison-Smith
Another minority bleating about anything that will get them free publicity. Rules are there for a reason and if they arent going to comply go back home.

What is amusing is the PC madness that automatically assumes any comment about anything who isn’t the same means we are racist. Let’s keep it simple. Knife plus plane equals bad. Whether its a dagger under the traditional dress or whether it’s a Scottish dagger, an Australian dagger - its a dagger. Simple.Joe Public goes to an airport for an international flight and is reminded not to bring all sorts of dangerous things on board. Daggers as well as more innocuous things like aerosol cans and nail file. Now we dont complain (that much) that we lose our ability to file our nails and spray our hair midair. Its a part of the security. Its unconnected with religious belief. A red blooded American may believe its their right to be armed - which they’re allowed to be in certain States. Doesnt mean they expect to be able to bring it on a plane. 90 people or 50 people, domestic or international- planes are targets and no weapon of any kind, for any person, should be on there.

Sikh, Priest, Racism, post 9/11 world---who are you trying to fool? If you are a Devote Sikh and are in tune with the world as you profess, then you would be well aware that in this current world- such dangerous objects are banned from air travel. Stop the poor me---and trying to blame other people and the whole I am the new people to New Zealand crap and have some respect in other cultures. If you dont like it -go back to where you are from...we will not miss you! Stop playing the religious and racism card---its getting old or as a Religious man did you not get enlightened to this in your teachings? Stop Blaming us-we live on the same planet!

I think it is lapse of airport security to let someone get on a plane with anything that big that could be a potentially fatal weapon. It is not racism at all that the Sihks were asked to hand it over. Anyone getting on any plane in the world with something like that, regardless or race age or religion, would be asked to put it in luggage or hand it over. The Sikhs need to realise that we live in a world of high security, & that someone sitting next to you on a plane with a huge dagger tends to make people nervous. Even if anyone else grabbed it and used it to harm other people, it would be their fault Would they want that on their conscience? I personally wouldnt take anything on board that could be used as a weapon, why should they be any different? Should they get special treatment to prove
the point that we arent racist?

Indeed this is a racist conspiracy by a white run airline. He should also be allowed to bring holy machine guns and divine mustard gas on board if he desires.What a crock.

Whats the big fuss? A little plane carrying probably less people then your average rush hour bus? Sure maybe they shouldnt have carried them on, but I am equally sure many people have carried on many other items they werent supposed too. If we get too paranoid were going to end up banning all knives. Well be sitting at home eating dinner with plastic cutlery, good luck carving your roast though!

Why would anyone with a knife of any description be described as safe on an airplane. Was this person also saying Boo-hoo, poor me?

I would not have felt threatened by these men. In NZ, one has realistic reasons to be afraid of people in automobiles, desperate meth addicts, gang bangers, intoxicated persons and being murdered in your home or on the street. We have no reason to fear Muslims (or those perceived to be Muslim).

How many of you wanting increased security on regional flights have actually flown on one? You can barely stand up straight or walk down the aisle without bumping into every seat on either side as you move through the cabin. Hardly conducive to a hijacking! The most damage the Sikhs could do with their kirpans would be a mass suicide. Lets get real - are we going to become a paranoid country simply because the Americans tell us to follow their lead? Yeah right! Lets drop the reactionary/PC attitudes (leave them for the Americans!) and keep the good old she’ll be right, common-sense, no. 8 fencing wire attitudes - that’s what this country was founded on.

I think people are over reacting on having no security to domestic flights. Its simple if you want more security then you pay more. Now air New zealand can go overboard and have a tight security and charge 100 per cent more. then the headlines may say Fares are too high. Besides there is nothing in NZ for a terrorist. Having a bomb here probably wont hit the news in Australia let alone have international impact. Any terrorist would want publicity and NZ is not the place for that. I dont think there is any threat to domestic flights.

I think that Mr Singh, as a New Zealand resident, should have known better! We all know that carrying a knife on to a plane is not permitted, why should Sikhs be an exception? If the average person got caught carrying a fixed blade hunting knife onto a plane that I would probably leave the plane in police custody. The Sikhs should count themselves lucky that the Pilot and crew where understanding and tolerant of the situation.

I have been described as a terrorist sympathiser by some people but even I can see this was about a weapon being carried aboard a plane and nothing to do with race, no one should carry weapons on a plane now regardless of race. People need to start being realistic about this situation instead of playing the race card when they are caught breaking the rules.

Kirsty Rutledge
There are some of those Sikhs in South Auckland that prance around Otara markets with swords swinging from their hips. Usually this would be illegal but they wear red turbans to signify the blood of their enemies so I guess it is alright for them to carry blades.

Where is common sense in this? Sikhs have always carried ceremonial daggers ever since their religion came to existence and to consider a group of priest as potential terrorists is a joke!

Steve Hawke
The Sikh priests must have been searched and questioned about the kirpans many times before the Auckland to Napier leg of their long trip. Given worldwide concerns about terrorism it was rude and irresponsible of these visitors to expect to fly on our airlines with what amounts to a dangerous weapons then accuse the hosts of racism because they voiced concern. Shame on them.

International terrorism - it has become a real terror affecting everyone since 911. Lets face it, terror is all around us, everyday. The terror of a drunk or speeding driver hitting our child, a serial rapist, or a man on parole going on a shooting spree, the list could easily keep going. If somebody wanted to create terror in New Zealand it doesn't need to involve a plane - look at the London terror attack - should we start searching all bags etc on buses and trains? Although I do agree that certain items should be banned on air travel, I believe that if somebody was planning to do something on an aircraft they probably could - no matter what security you had. I would rather have my privacy and independence, a privilege slowly disappearing in the United States.

Dave Henderson
I am concerned that these people on the flight were shaking because what they saw jumped to conclusions about the nature of these people. I fly many times between Auckland and Gisborne and have not once been searched, been a born and breed kiwi would these people jump to the same conclusions if they saw me with something that made them shake or is just us kiwis have decided to join the rest of the world in having to prejudice people because of their race or religion. For gods-sake the reason we all enjoy flying in New Zealand is because we dont have to put up with all this security invading our privacy.

You want to hear a good one. My parents did some international travel recently and passed through security with no problems. It wasnt until after that they realised that during packing they had accidentally mixed up passports and had gone through security posing as each other. True story. As for this issue, my take is, its not a big deal. I am more concerned with the dangers of my daily commute.

This proves what many of us who worked in the international security industry previously overseas have known for decades. Its not just airport security. There is no security in NZ period New Zealands borders are as secure as a wet paper bag end of story.
But it will

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