Unless you are a diplomat, ‘hip-hop terrorist’ or celebrity diva airports are to be avoided, a necessary evil of travelling. In fact judging by recent media reports even the latter do not relish the prospect of being whisked through airport security while the rest of us are forced to wait in line, poor darlings.
Whether regular travellers or infrequent fliers it is likely that the least enjoyable part for many of us is the airport. With a few notable exceptions, there is not a great deal to keep us entertained in the typical terminal. Shopping in over priced ‘tax free’ outlets, often average restaurants though the coffee can sometimes be more than passable, little of this seems especially tempting.
“it can be vary between tortuous and downright unpleasant”
Since 9/11 however the greatest bugbear for the majority of us has been airport security. Long queues at passport control, the facts and fallacies of transporting liquids and the possible risks of full body scanners can all make the journey less of a pleasure than it should be.
Travelling into the United States in particular can be tedious even for residents, but for those of not from ‘Land of the Free’ it can vary between tortuous and downright unpleasant. There are many stories of people taking as long as several hours to pass through the full security process and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has received a great deal of criticism in recent years.
Some consider it a knee-jerk reaction however it is hard to dismiss the images of 9/11 and ultimately these security measures are in place to protect us all. Nobody wishes to see a repeat of similar horrific scenes to those of that day. However although always keen to return to America, the prospect of a drawn out and generally unpleasant entry system does fill me with loathing.
My own experiences of passing through airport security however have led me to come to one overriding conclusion; it is totally inconsistent.
My carryon luggage is completely consistent; a backpack in which every item is always the same, a laptop, camera, lenses, a water bottle, first aid kit, hard drives, spare clothing and a few other items. The items that appear ‘suspect’ during the scanning process at security gates however is different in every airport.
The water bottle is made of aluminium; despite always being empty and separated when scanned Manchester regularly send it through twice. This is my local airport which I fly from more than any other and yet this is the only object ever chosen there for additional attention. Just sealed my fate next flight of course!
When leaving Barcelona recently the security personnel wanted to check the camera and the lenses explaining that due the density of the items they were difficult to scan. I mentioned it was the first time they had been checked in this manner, the reply “that is because we are doing it properly!”
The obvious insinuation here is that other airports do not!
Flying recently from Zurich an attendant asked me about a sharp object in my pack, I could not think what it possibly was. After emptying the pack the culprit was discovered, scissors in the first aid kit. I had forgotten all about them, never being asked about them before, despite frequent flights. However then after checking them they were returned and allowed back into my pack. Obviously not considered a risk, maybe this explains why other airports ignored them?
Athens is a particularly time consuming passage, with the initial security personnel asking a great deal of questions and requiring the pack to be almost emptied prior to scanning. However it did mean that there was not a single item that requires any further query or scan.
These are just a selection of the inconsistencies which have been experienced. There are more but think the point has been made sufficiently.
This inconsistency is also evident in what the security personnel and their technology require to be removed from pockets and person. Some airports require every item to be emptied out of pockets, wallets, cash and shoes even need to be removed, but at other airports thisis not necesary.
“the measures are not effective?”
This poses two distinct questions for me; are the reasons for these inconsistencies because the security measures we are being subjected to are not really necessary or more worryingly the measures are not effective? Surely if an item is of concern to one authority and is picked up as a potential hazard by one screening process it should be the same with all?
It may simply be that the more modern airports have better scanning procedures but I think it is safe to assume that Manchester and Zurich will have the latest technology.
I understand the necessity of routine and consistency in the security process, they prevent mistakes occurring due to missing out procedures.
The bottom line for me is that I accept that we do need to give up a little of the convenience of flying to ensure it is safe. Security measures are necessary but we should be able to expect a degree of consistency in the treatment and measures that we are subjected to at international airports.
It would be useful to hear what an employee of the airport security has to say, maybe explain some of the reasons for these inconsistencies. In the end I think some understanding goes a long way towards acceptance.
Do any of you have any particular experiences to share, good or bad, gross inconsistencies or draconian security measures that maybe shocked or left you feeling like your rights had been abused? I would appreciate hearing them.