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Eoghan Corry: Welcome to a new age in international air travel, with misery heaped upon misery and many of us thinking twice before booking that trip abroad

The golden age of international air travel has gone the way of the Dodo and this year we'll have about as much chance of getting off the ground without the misery and hassle of yet more security delays, extra expense and restrictive regulations as that same extinct and flightless bird.

We all knew the fun had gone out of flying, now we must face the fact that it's never coming back. Ever.

Air travel was already a miserable, demeaning experience and 2010 promises to be worse, if anything. But will it make us think twice before booking a flight? In many cases, yes.

The incident in New Jersey this week when a punter wandered down the wrong side of a scanner was a landmark of sorts. It prompted an all-out lockdown resulting in hundreds having to be rescanned and thousands delayed.

The news coverage of the event has focused on the silliness of the passenger not of the security process.

The current environment means that nobody is going to accuse the security official of over-reacting.

People have already become concerned about flying, not because of the danger of a fatal incident, but the danger of being maddened by over- zealous security.

American security officials are low on education, wages and self-esteem and long on arrogance. Some people already see it as a reason for avoiding the country.

Other countries with real security problems, including our own between 1970 and 1995, and, most tellingly, Israel, manage to run their airports without allowing security officials to turn them into an amateur theatrical society.

Not America.

This was a drama waiting to happen even before the alleged Christmas attempt to blow up a plane.

In vain it has been pointed out that the alleged plane bomber would not be detected by the new security rules they are making up, but by someone bothering to enforce the existing ones in the first place.

The paranoia that prompted the New Jersey incident predates the latest scare. The people who want bigger security budgets, who want to sell body scanners, and who want to pretend they are in the marines, know that terrorism isn't going to go away. Nor is anyone going to question their demand to create more hassle at the airport.

Fewer of us will fly in 2010, with passengers numbers expected to be down 15pc in Ireland and about 10pc worldwide. In America the drop could be steeper. No prizes for guessing why.

Air travel is miserable enough already and the problem is not confined to security.

We now have airlines charging €30 and €40 to check in luggage and carry-on luggage. We have baggage police who roam Pier D every day making sure that bags fit into Michael O'Leary's cage.

The security polices are not even consistent. We now have airports which allow more than one carry-on bag, others that do not. We have airports which ask you to remove all shoes, others that allow you to keep most of them.

We now have airports which allow duty-free liquids in ordinary bags, in sealed bags, and other airports which confiscate them.

We now have airports where immigration officials are bordering on the pleasant (Atlanta, JFK), and others where it is anything but (LAX, Houston).

We now have check-in staff who are incentivised to find overweight baggage, and possibly even incentivised to get people to miss the plane, so they can be sold an overpriced ticket for the next flight.

We have more documentation checks and more biometric checks, two in Terminal One in Heathrow and staff asking passengers for passports for internal flights in Ireland.

If you are flying to Kerry with Ryanair nowadays you need a passport.

Hassles, rules and restrictions have been piled one on the other to the point that all the joy has been sucked out of air travel.

Passengers are asking how much worse it can it get. The answer is: a lot.

Once it was as much the journey that appealed about travel as much the destination, now the journey is a long, drawn out, expensive, restrictive, hell. And there's worse to come.

The securocrats would love passengers to

  • Pass through a scanner naked

  • Have NO hand baggage

lRemain strapped in throughout the flight.

Just because these are not viable options does not mean they are not going to try. One company that manufactures scanners claims they have an "almost naked" visibility.

Passengers have already been locked down for the final hour of the approach on US flights during Christmas week. It resulted in more than one case of the seats being soiled and the aircraft being taken out of service.

In the 1990s they wanted to make flying easier with kerbside check in, online check in, ticketless travel.

Michael O'Leary boasted he wanted air travel to be as easy as getting on a bus.

He said the new T2 queuing areas would not be needed when passengers book in on the internet. It appears the space might be needed after all -- for security.

All the movement for the next decade will be in the opposite direction.

Flying for the next decade will indeed be like taking the bus, the bus out of a maximum- security prison.