Do we need airport security?

by Tiggered

Airport security check - a tiresome, time-consuming and ultimately useless procedure

If you have ever flown, you know what nightmare the airport security check is. Long queues (sometimes long enough to make you miss your flight). Rude officials. Ridiculous restrictions. Confiscating perfectly innocent items. The list goes on.

Even if you're not planning any mischief, it is likely that passing through aiport security check will be an unpleasant experience.

Moreover, I propose that in its present form, the pre-flight security checks serve no purpose other than that of infuriating passengers.

Do you agree?

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Airport security checks - the ultimate nuisance of air travel

aircraft in flightMy recent trip to UK provoked serious thoughts about purpose of airport security checks.  In theory, they are there for our safety.  In real world, it's a tangle of ridiculous rules and directives through which each passenger must pass, to his or her irritation.  

Normally, I wouldn't mind.  I like to feel secure.  I like the idea of guns, knives and explosives being forbidden on board of a plane that I'm travelling in.  Unfortunately, the airport security regulations are being taken to such levels of absurd, that I'm slowly becoming their sworn enemy.

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Airport security checks are...

Passing through the airport security check

airport x-rayFirst, you have to queue.  You better reserve half an hour for the procedure, because if you don't pass through, you don't fly.  Non-negotiable.  

Make sure you have no forbidden items in your luggage or on your person (sounds easy enough, but in fact here's where things get complicated - see below).  

Undress.  Depending on the officer you're dealing with, you can be asked to take only the jacket off, or you can be left standing in your socks, trousers and undershirt.  Do not expect 'please' to follow the stripping order - it rarely happens.  

Pass through the metal detector.  If it beeps, expect to be frisked.  

In the meantime, your hand luggage and other belongings get x-rayed.  Any suspicious items get confiscated.  

Reclaim your stuff, get dressed, you're through.  

In itself, the procedure is pretty straightforward, although being treated as a potential criminal (and believe me, you do feel suspicion in the air) is not exactly pleasant.  It's all the little random 'extras' that make the experience unforgettable - and nightmarish.  

Note:  my security check description applies only to European airports, as these are the only ones I'm familiar with. 

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Items considered dangerous by airport security

knitting needlesGuns, knives, machetes, pickaxes, explosives and similar (here they have my complete approval).

From now on, things get more interesting.

Scissors.  Nail files.  Knitting needles (oh, tremble before the Crochet Hook of Doom!).

Liquids in containers of more than 100 ml capacity.  That's THE most irritating regulation of all.  Even if your liquids are in regulatory size bottles, they have to be presented separately, in a clear plastic bag.  A PROPER bag, too - that's important (see below).

So no, you can't have a drink during your journey - unless you buy it after the check for an astronomical price.  Deodorants, shampoos, shower gels, shaving creams, toothpastes - all need to stay behind.  If you've paid for a check-in bag, you're ok, so basically it's pay or stink.  

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Airport security officials - the bullies and the rest

bullyPassing through the airport security is a lottery.  You never know what will raise suspicion of an officer.  You never know in what sort of mood he or she will be.  

The problem here is that some people, given little power over other human beings, will choose to exercise it to the extreme, just to wallow in their own self-importance.  

Sure, not all airport officials are bullies.  Some are polite, friendly, non-invasive.  Unfortunately, there are too few of them.

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Reality of airport security checks - doubtful security, certain inconvenience

pound coinLet me illustrate my misgivings with a real life story.  

My recent flying trip took me away for a few days only, so there was no point in buying hold luggage.  On the outbound trip I decided to bluff it and simply remain silent about a roll-on deodorant (with all its murderous potential) in my backpack.  It passed through without a question, lucky me.

Returning, I had a few more items to declare - a bottle of perfume, contact lens solution, medicinal drops and the very same deodorant.  This time I chose to be a good girl and popped them all into a transparent plastic bag from my friend's kitchen.  When asked if I have any liquids to declare, I proudly presented my little package, congratulating myself for being such a good citizen.  

Unfortunately, for the airport security lady I wasn't good enough.  She didn't like my plastic bag (completely transparent, easily accessible) and directed me to a vending machine where I could buy a proper one.  

Call me weird, but demanding one pound sterling for a single plastic bag is an outrage in my book.  Even if I were willing to make the purchase, I had no currency left so into the bin my possessions went (or into the security lady's pocket?  I'll never know).  

I was speechless with anger, so I didn't ask what exactly was wrong with my bag, apart from not adhering to ridiculous regulations.  I wish now that I had made the enquiry, but it probably wouldn't have prevented me from losing my stuff anyway.  

Moral of the story - I solemnly promise never to declare any liquids again.  

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Do airport security checks make you feel more secure?

stopAnother story, from the very same journey.  

My companion is not so law-abiding.  During our trip, he was gifted with a credit-card multitool (a handy little device, see below).  Apart from other features, the gadget has a small, sharp blade.  He decided to chance it and smuggle it through the airport security check, together with a few cosmetics of forbidden size.

Guess what.  Shaving foam and antiperspirant got confiscated.  The blade - the only item, between the two of us, that could actually do some harm on board if we were up to no good - passed unmentioned.  

The absurdity of it all!  

Cosmetics, perfume, medicines, drinks are all confiscated for their dangerous potential, while truly weapon-like items are waved through.  

If this is how the airport security checks work, then I see no reason for their existence.  I don't feel more secure, because I KNOW that they allow potentially dangerous equipment through.  I object to my belongings being confiscated in any circumstances, but if it happens for ridiculous reasons, it's twice as irritating.

So, here are my two appeals to airport security officials worldwide:

1.  Please stop being such a pain in the lower regions

2.  Either become relevant, or disband

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Airport security didn't mind us carrying this on board...

SE MT908 11 Function Credit Card Size...

Airport security checks - aye or nay?

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The sooner they are abandoned (or drastically changed), the better
katiem2 on 01/14/2013

The current procedures are over the top, not a good fit for the airport employees or those flying with the airport. Change is in order. I'd think they have enough information to make better more effective and efficient changes.

frugalrvers on 01/14/2013

Excessive, invasive and abusive quite often - just not acceptable in their current form. Would love to know how much success these have had (how many real threats, not toothpaste, have they intercepted)?

Updated: 04/08/2013, Tiggered
 
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Tiggered on 01/14/2013

Well said. And hopefully something will change, once enough people complain in public.

Tiggered on 01/14/2013

Thanks you for your kind words, they made me smile.

I am also considering switching over to trains (especially that I hate flying), but compared to cheap airlines, railway travel is terribly expensive. On the other hand, retaining your dignity and peace of mind is probably worth it. AND it's greener, too.

The worst thing is that you can't really fight back against the airport bullies. What can you do? Complain? To whom?
Ridiculous, the whole thing.

katiem2 on 01/14/2013

Flying is a convenience that's been turned on end. I fell changes should be made soon. :)K

frugalrvers on 01/14/2013

Great article, Tiggered...

I don't fly, but my teenage daughter does and loves it. However, a few years ago she got off the plane (I was meeting her on the other side) and she was horrified at how she was treated...flying alone, she was humiliated, antagonized and had broken no rules/had nothing suspicious. If Mama Bear (me) had seen this, I don't care what would have happened...I wouldn't have allowed such a violation of privacy and bullying. Unacceptable to me.

The hypocrisy I see is that some people can use their hands as lethal weapons (so what is next, handcuffs?). There are biological threats that can't be seen or detected, so there is no true "safe." Lines have been crossed with stripping people down, guilty until proven innocent. It feels to me that government is simply trying to look like they are doing SOMETHING (cover our butts).

I ride the train instead of airplanes and there is zero security....none.

In sum, I completely agree with you! Even if I didn't, what a well written article!

Tiggered on 01/14/2013

At least you didn't have to leave your stuff behind. Silver lining :)
Yes, some airports are pretty easy-going. Once, in Spain, I carried a carton of juice in my hand luggage and no one suspected me of being a terrorist... Just shows that it can be done.
I sincerely wonder if the regulation about liquids isn't there to boost sales on the 'air side'?

2uesday on 01/14/2013

We were unfortunate to be on vacation when the new regulations and restrictions suddenly came in. Had I been at home when the rules came into effect I could have packed accordingly. However, I was packing to return home to the UK we got text messages from family and friends about the new restrictions and had to repack before we left for the airport. It was not the best way to end a holiday but I guess could have been worse.
We have noticed that the security checks at different airports in Europe vary in the way they are done. Even in the UK the sale of recommended size and style of plastic bag is at some airports while they are given away freely at others. We always allow extra time for the security checks and to buy bottled water once we are 'air side' as the cost on the flights for drinks is silly.

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