Smart Terrorists

It’s wrong to sneer at the incompetence of Brit terrorists. – they’ve manipulated the Brit government into derailing London’s position as a global financial center.

The derailing:

There was a 1.8 per cent year-on-year fall in passenger traffic at Heathrow in June and a 1.2 per cent fall in the first half of this year, according to BAA.

Air traffic has been growing annually at over 10%, so Heathrow just lost over 1 in 10 of its customers in a year – quite an achievement.

That’s because it treats its passengers like dirt, and now the Brit government is worried:

London’s status as one of the world’s leading financial centres risks being undermined by excessive delays at Heathrow and the airport’s sprawling layout, the new City minister warns on Monday…

In frank criticism that reflects mounting government concern, she voiced fears that multinational companies could question the rationale for holding annual or other important meetings in London. “I want multinational companies to feel really confident about housing their annual general meetings here,” she said…

She said of the airport: “You spend so much time being processed. That’s the issue… passports, security, just the layout of the buildings which makes it more difficult.”

But her government has decided on a perimeter protection security policy that treats every traveler as an equal threat and reacts solely to past attacks rather than anticipating the future.

That approach leads to cumulative security measures – after each attack another hole has to be plugged, at the cost of more delay to travel. But terrorists adapt, and since there are many ways to bring down an airliner, and most are currently not screened for, travelers now know that they face ever-increasing delay and harassment.

There’s a much better way – summarized here by the President of the (US) Airline Pilots Security Alliance, hat tip Bruce Schneier:

…we should be starting with defending the smallest spaces — the cockpits and cargo compartments, and working outward to the limits of our resources; instead of starting with the airport perimeter and working inward, ignoring the actual defense of those spaces that are actually the terrorist targets.

Heathrow’s problem is that a reputation, once lost, takes many years to recover. That’s because people remember bad experiences much more vividly than good ones, and prioritize their own direct experiences and those of people close to them over inputs from third parties.

Now every business in London knows that Heathrow is a lousy business airport, and they’ve adapted to that.

Thus frequent travelers like us Gandalfs have made quite big changes to our life plans to avoid traveling to the UK by air – we expect our upcoming trip there will be our last one by air. After that it’s rail – if that gets intolerable too, we’ll just disinvest from the UK.

So those terrorists – with their match-ignited shoe bombs, non-functioning liquid bombs, and wrongly rigged detonators have successfully tricked the Brit government into undermining the Brit engine of growth.

They did this by learning from their predecessors. The IRA’s successful bombing of London’s financial center in April 1993 immediately brought the Brit government to the negotiating table.

Al Qaeda has avoided the need to smuggle huge truck bombs into the City of London.

That’s smart.


3 Responses to Smart Terrorists

  1. dearieme says:

    Flying from Stansted to Schipol, and changing there, works well for me. Even getting to Heathrow in a predictable time via the M25 is impossible.

  2. gandalf says:


    I agree, Schipol is much nicer, and it has 5 runways to Heathrow’s 2 (according to this piece):

    I guess you’re stuck with Stanstead. It’s not so bad – at least they provided us with disposable socks the one time we used it.

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