The special security procedures for flights arriving or departing DCA (Reagan National) include a requirement that no passenger is to leave his or her seat in the first 30 minutes of a flight departing for or from DCA, or during the 30 minutes before arriving at DCA. Thus, for example, on a one hour flight from LGA to DCA, all passengers must stay in their seats the entire flight -- no trips to the lav -- or else the plane diverts to the nearest airport.
Oh dear, another piece of nonsense, and a rule that has obviously been cooked up without a great deal of thought. As if any terrorist is going to be deterred by a seat-belt sign! What next, seat harnesses with a time lock?
DCA is a bit of a special case because the White House is only a few seconds flying time from the visual approach along the Potomac. Given that a smarter terror organisation would have scheduled their event for when GWB was known to be at home and have done a "better" job of pilot training, one can easily surmise that GWB justifiably feels targeted and is acting accordingly.
This "rule" is a pathetic attempt to address a very complex situation with a very simplistic answer. Anyone who has flown out of DCA knows that by the time they finish climbout you are at least as far away as planes leaving IAD. Why these silly restrictions only at DCA? Most DCA departures I have been on climb steeply away from the city. Unless an attacker was already in the cockpit they would find it very difficult to take control of a plane for at least several minutes after takeoff. I do not know how fast a typical comm'l jet moves after takeoff but I'm guessing it has to be at least 3+ miles per minute. By the time an attacker works his way into the cockpit you would likely be at a minimum of 12 to 15 miles downrange.
To those who advocate closing DCA - what about all of the jobs lost, the 500+ million US spent in renovations over the last few years, the overcrowding at BWI & IAD once air travel picks back up - and it will pick back up - it will just take time. There are only 600 to 700 members of Congress but millions of regular pax that use this airport. Closing it would be a huge mistake and be giving in to terror.
From a different perspective, if a person is unable to remain seated for an hour, and cannot exercise the common sense to use the bathroom in the airport before boarding, then should they really be out unattended? The airline I worked for (until very recently) uses 19 seat turboprops with no lavs on trips of up to 2 hours in length. Passengers are advised of this ahead of time and we very rarely have problems. If you drink 6 cups of coffee before the flight and have a bladder the size of a thimble, then you will probably get what you earned.
I dont get it DO-28. I understand that many small commuter flights of an hour or two do not have lavs but that is no reason to restrict use of one on a plane so equipped. There is some well thought out ideas being implemented to improve security and a ton of poorly thought out, knee jerk reactions that do not address security problems but are just an attempt to look like you care about security. Many times in the last month I have seen silly ideas enforced as "security" and many people react with the party line - it wont hurt you, you do not need lavs, nail clippers, DCA etc. Often the response is that these are difficult times and we need to be patient and accept inconvenience as part of the process. I travel extensively for work and believe me I am willing to be inconvenienced, delayed or denied the little comforts of travel to guarantee my security and that of others - however it should be meaningful security. We need to let our representatives know that efforts need to be concentrated on real security issues not simplistic measures that do not address the real problems.
The real message here is that the politicians think they need more protection than their constituents. This is a blatant admission that the security rules imposed upon the rest of the country are KNOWN to be ineffectual by the people that ordered them.
The rumour is that an FAA administrator was recently fired because he balked at putting a disproportionate number of sky marshals on aircraft operating out of Washington DC.
DO28, if you say that people have to be able to do without lavs, you could well be discriminating against whole groups of people who have a legitimate requirement to travel - e.g people with prostate problems who are otherwise fit, diabetics and so-on.
If you make it too hard for them, people won't fly. If there's perceived discrimination, especially in the US, then there's bound to be a lawyer somewhere who'll find someone to sue.
Some in the United States government were supposedly strongly opposed to ever re-opening DCA, and it does appear that several of the 'security' requirements could have the unintended (or is it intended?) consequence of making it economically infeasible (from a passenger load standpoint) of continuing to operate there.
For example, the stay-in-your-seat rules do not apply to flights leaving BOS for BWI (Baltimore) or IAD (Dulles) even though such flights would follow the same general routing as a flight to DCA. And presumably, during a 75 minute flight from BOS to DCA, passengers could use the lav for a precious 15 minutes while enroute without the plane diverting to the nearest airport. Any hijackers would presumably choose that time to move about the cabin. So the deterrent effect of this stay-in-your-seat rule escapes me. (Even if it was to a provide 30 minute scramble 'window' for the combat air patrol to intercept the plane, the rule does not apply to enroute planes flying over metropolitan Washington.)
And, perhaps with someone taking a cue from Silk Air or Egyptair, pilots are not fully trusted either. Pilots flying into DCA must be dedicated to that route, and it was implied they receive special security and background checks before being allowed to land there. Not heard whether this involves a psychological screening as well.