Rich Galen

In-flight we were told that for the final hour not only did we have to remain in our seats, but that we couldn't use any electronic devices nor have anything, including magazines and newspapers, in our laps.

In the event, the flight attendants took pillows and blankets and stuffed them into the overheads, but they didn't enforce the no reading materials rule, perhaps on the theory that an hour staring into the seat back in front of you at the end of an 8-hour flight might cause more problems than that rule would resolve.

When you come back to the U.S. from overseas, you have to go through immigration. My favorite thing is when the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) person hands back your passport and says, "Welcome home."

After immigration, you pick up your bags from the belt as if you were leaving the airport, whether you have an onward flight or not. You wheel them past the Customs inspectors and, if they don't think you look like you're trying out for a part on "Locked-Up Abroad" they wave you through.

If you're going on, you have to check them again to your final domestic destination, and go through security as if you had just come in from being dropped off at the curb. This isn't different. It's been this way for a long time, and the procedures to get out of the international arrivals area and into the terminal for our trip from JFK to DCA was, as far as I could see, hadn't changed from any other domestic TSA screening over the past several years.

Boarding the flight from JFK to DCA aboard a Comair commuter flight was no different than any domestic flight I've boarded since 9/11. There was no "one-bag" rule, there was no individual search. and there didn't appear to be any additional security at the gate or on the plane.

If, in the wake of the Abdulmutallab attack, extra security were going to be put on any plane, a flight from New York to Washington would likely be it.

In the end our trip was uneventful. But, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab reminded us yet again: We have to be right every time. The bad guys only have to beat the system once.


Rich Galen

Rich Galen has been a press secretary to Dan Quayle and Newt Gingrich. Rich Galen currently works as a journalist and writes at Mullings.com.