30 January 2012

Security

Over the last ten years, I have been on many aeroplanes and have had the somewhat dubious pleasure of visiting a wide range of airports - from Kavala in northern Greece to Knock in northern Ireland and from LAX (Los Angeles), California to Durban, South Africa. During these travels, I have been making mental notes about airport security and have been amazed to find so many variations and so many discrepancies.

Perhaps I am naive, but I have this idea that airport security should follow agreed international standards, enforced through rigorous inspection and licensing. Nobody likes security checks but in a world that has been blighted by inhuman terrorist attacks, travellers have a right to expect that airport security checks will, as far as possible, guarantee their safety.

Regarding our recent trip to New Zealand, we were allowed to take bottles of water on our internal Jetstar flight from Auckland to the South Island. Why? If liquids are a security problem on international flights, why are they allowable on internal flights? At Dubai, I did not have to take my laptop from my carry on bag whereas at virtually every other airport in the world laptops have to be scanned separately. In fact the guy at the X-ray conveyor belt was insistent that the laptop should stay in the bag.

Also at Dubai, when we were "airside", we bought some water for the onward flight to Brisbane only to find security people at the boarding gate insisting that we binned these expensive bottles. Interestingly, there wasn't an equivalent process when we returned to Dubai three weeks later and boarded our connecting plane to Manchester.

At some airports, they make you take off your shoes as a matter of course, at others they don't. Before passing through some X-ray gates you are asked to remove watches and belts with buckles but at others you aren't and yet when you pass through those gates the alarms fail to sound. Why would that be? Are the X-ray gates sometimes purely for show?

Once at Treviso airport near Venice, I accidentally went through security with an umbrella in my hand luggage but it wasn't detected even though the security signage insisted that umbrellas would be confiscated. At the same security check, a bottle of water was removed from my bag but the second bottle of water - at the bottom of my bag - was missed.

Our daughter, Frances, tells me that security was extremely lax at the airport in Birmingham, Alabama even though she was connecting with a transatlantic flight in Atlanta. Her hand luggage was not scanned and the X-ray gate was redundant so she boarded her later flight to Manchester without being screened at all.

I could go on and on about this subject. But finally I'd just like to make a point about water. Generally speaking, travellers are not allowed to take bottles of water "airside". You have to throw your bottles away and then buy new bottles of water in the duty free shopping zone. Invariably, this water is heavily overpriced. At Auckland Airport we paid $4NZ (£2) for a 500ml bottle and once at Shannon Airport in Ireland there was no water for sale anywhere. When travelling by air - especially long distance - it is vital to be well-hydrated. The small amounts of liquid provided by cabin staff during flights are often insufficient. In my view, if we are required to throw water away before passing through security, we should be provided with free or very cheap bottles of water when "airside". Besides, there are surely quick tests that could check the contents of a bottle so that travellers would not be required to needlessly throw their water away.

Dear reader - have you got any tales or thoughts of your own about airport security?

9 comments:

  1. Nice picture of you in your birthday suit, YP. ;)No contributions from me, I'm afraid. The last time I flew was in the early 70s.

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  2. ERROR WARNING: OWN PETARD HOIST ACTIVATED!

    Quote: 'At Dubai, I did not have take my laptop...' Insert 'to'?

    Having once missed an internal flight because of the queue at security, they're not my favourite people.

    They were wonderfully lax at Cape Town though. It was late at night, the airport was about to close and they wanted to get home!

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  3. Don't start me on the water issue!! Daylight robbery, as you say you throw the stuff away, and then have to pay 2 or 3 pounds for a small bottle 20 yards later. (can a yard be a measure of time?).
    Tempted to line my pockets with plastic and fill 'em up from the taps in the "rest-rooms"!
    As for other security, as you say, it seems to be hit and miss.

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  4. Everytime we go to New York...I get pulled at customs... I am cooly but politely ushered into an antiroom where I sit alone for a half hour when I guy on a sort of platfrom looks at a computer screen.....

    then I am asked to return to customs where chris is always waiting!

    happens EVERYtime.......
    it used to bother me,, now I just read a book.....

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  5. JENNY Time that Keith flew you down to Rome for a romantic weekend. The aeroplanes have seats nowadays!
    SHOOTING PEDANTS re. the laptop at Dubai, I have no idea to which error you are referring!
    BRIAN I think next time I fly long distance I will take an empty water bottle and attempt to fill it up from a water fountain. Then I will squirt the water at the Gestapo security officers before hiding in the men's fragrances section of duty free. They'd never think to find me there!
    EARL GRAY All American immigration officers will be aware of your vindictive attitude towards starlings and will simply be checking to ensure that you are still sane."Howdy. Is that Aunt Gladys? American immigration here. Now honey what can you tell us about this chickenshit?"

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  6. thats a double OOOCH YP

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  7. My duaghter and her friends who travel a lot ( as young folks do )always take an empty drink bottle with them which they fill up on the other side of security. I believe we have a special place to do this at Brisbane International Airport. It never bothers me, I have always had all the water I need on the plane from the special water containers they have in the galley for the use of passengers.
    As for the rest of security... I agree it differs where ever you go but we've found everywhere friendly except USA where they are intimidating and often downright unpleasant. They always frisk Tony probably because he travels in a tracksuit and is so big. They must think he has lots of hiding places!!! ( thrilling for him !)
    Cheers

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  8. HELEN To which hiding places are you referring? And please - we really don't want to know how big Tony is.

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  9. I've seen the same contradictions before now. When Jeff and I flew out to Ontario for a week last summer, they insisted I was only allowed 1 lighter in my carry on. Fine, no problem, I gave them one.

    However, when I flew to the UK just under three years ago, I had two, and they never bothered. Same thing when I flew from Shannon in Ireland back in 2005.

    I agree with what you say though, they need to set some rules that should be followed everywhere, instead of confusing and irritating the passengers.

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