Colombian Travel vs. American TSA
March 22nd, 2012 | Back to Blog Listing
As I wind down my eight day voyage to Colombia, I can't help but dwell upon the non-sensible, invasive, and criminal sham that the United States' travel policies have turned into. Colombia, perceived by Americans as a third world land of drug cartels, kidnappings, and guerrilla mercenaries (none of which is really accurate), has absolutely superior air travel service compared to the United States. This is true both of the government policies surrounding travel and the actual service provided by at least one private domestic carrier.

Domestically, a group of us flew from Bogotá to Cartagena on Avianca Airlines. The experience could not have been more positive. After quickly checking in with a friendly staff we proceeded to security. The line was short. We didn't remove our computers from our bag, nor take off our shoes, nor throw away our bottles of water. Nobody intended to make us assume the position of a criminal and examine our naked body. Nobody intended to feel our genitals, nor to have us remove articles of clothing. We put our carry-on bags on a conveyor belt and comfortably walked through a metal detector. Those of us who tripped it were not harassed, but rather quickly wanded down and sent on our ways.

A simple chart comparing the security protocols I experienced between the United States TSA and the Colombian airport security

It was everything a country like America should be capable of.

The only additional (though arguably positive) layer of security is that they check bag tickets after you pick up your bag on the conveyer. Although this does slow the process down by a few minutes, I can appreciate wanting to protect against private theft.

The airline itself was also phenomenal. Avianca has a brand new Airbus fleet, each seat fully loaded with televisions, gaming devices, and USB mounts. All of the in-flight services were completely free of charge despite the flight only being an hour. As a strong proponent of allowing foreign carries into the US domestic fleets (one of the US' many anti-competitive laws), I would definitely welcome Avianca with open arms and in all likeliness become a frequent flyer.

Internationally, the departure process has been almost as easy, albeit with a few more steps. After receiving our tax vouchers at one window and then checking in with United, we proceeded through to immigration and had our passports stamped. Security was almost identical to the domestic flight only they did ask us to remove our computers from carry-on and place them in a bucket (much like the TSA does). There was no removal of shoes, no trashing of water and food, no groping, no naked body scanning. Rather just a simple metal detector with a follow-up wand.

The only annoyance came after waiting at the gate for about an hour. Evidently a secondary screening process was being setup and we had to leave the room, and re-enter through the secondary metal detector. There was one bit of stupidity here. I was allowed to bring my metal water bottle full of water through, but I was not allowed to bring my half-full plastic water through. Curiously though, I was allowed to pour the contents of the plastic bottle into my metal bottle and continue without further incident. Go figure.

All in all though, it was a pretty positive experience.

I spoke with a couple of Colombians about these processes and they agree that traveling around Colombia is a very pleasant experience. They also said that they hated travel procedures of the United States citing that they're treated very badly, generally as if they're terrorists.

I will continue to strongly oppose the TSA and all levels of government that use fear and American ignorance to strip individuals of Constitutional rights. I strongly encourage others to do the same.

March 23, 2012 5:13pm CST Edit: After chatting with members of the Reddit community about this post, I'm told that my experience may have been unique. Further discussion seems to suggest that the lighter security I experienced was due to my traveling during the low season. Others have reported significantly more invasive scans, albeit body scanning technologies are still not present.