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What You Can Do to Protect Yourself

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THE GOVERNMENT IS SETTING UP REGULATIONS to protect passengers, airlines are taking actions to safeguard flights, and airports are instituting new security procedures, all to thwart any terrorist threat. Passengers can also take steps that will add an additional layer of insurance for their personal safety. Actions you can take include:

Check departure time one hour before leaving for the airport to be sure your flight is on time.

Ensure you leave a complete itinerary behind including flights, hotels, and contact numbers, one for your family and one for your office.

For domestic flights curbside checkin may be best. E-Tickets make this fast. Most airlines will allow those with e-tickets with faxed confirmations to go to the airline club or directly to the gate as long as you have a receipt or printed confirmation. The airline clubs, especially on the secure side of the terminal, are great inconspicuous places to hang out while waiting for your flight. This means you can go directly to security check point lines without having to go to the ticket counter, as long as you did curbside luggage check or have only carry-on baggage.

To avoid bag searches and extra security attention don’t buy a oneway ticket, don’t change your itinerary less than 72 hours before your flight, and don’t pay cash, especially for an expensive ticket.

Aisle seats are best for men, and center and window seats best for women and children. If there is trouble, you want men to be able to get to the action fast.

Whether you board the plane first or last, keep an eye on your fellow passengers and do your own screening and profiling. If you feel uncomfortable with any passenger let the gate agent or flight attendant know. If they remain on the aircraft, and you still feel uncomfortable don’t be afraid to ask the airline to reschedule you on another flight.

Wear your seatbelt at all times, but be sure that you know how to unfasten it in a hurry. If you have to take any self-defensive action, you’ll want to be able to move quickly.

Do not wear chinos. This may identify you as an American. Get to know your seatmate— especially if you sit in first or business class. In a terrorist hijacking you and that person may have to work together as the first line of defense.

Should you be victim to a hijack don’t wait for an air marshal. At this stage there are very few trained air marshals on the 30,000 plus daily flights in the United States. It’s like the Wild West—you’re deputized to defend yourself and others. Remember the chances are they’ll be more than one or two hijackers, so you may want to yell for help. You’ve got to fight back. You can use shoes, full soda or beer cans, pillows, and blankets to attack the hijackers. You won’t be alone—not in this day and age. Every hijacker must be treated as if he is on a suicide mission. Smother the person with as many bodies as possible. Put blankets over his head so he can’t see. Yell for help from fellow passengers. Think in your own mind—it’s either you or him. Belts and shoelaces make for good handcuffs. Be sure that the flight attendants are keeping the cockpit aware of what is going on.