I flew yesterday, after more stringent security measures were applied in response to the plot to detonate explosive devices aboard ten transatlantic flights bound for the US from Heathrow. I flew from Kelowna to Cranbrook via Vancouver, not exactly hubs of terrorist activity.
Nevertheless, I had to check my overnight bag, containing shaving cream, toothpaste, hair gel, and other potentially compromising materials. I also didn't dare venture outside the security checkpoints in Vancouver to avoid having to line-up again. However, I was allowed to carry through my cell phone, iPod, laptop, books, pens, and key fob. I couldn't if I was flying from Heathrow.
British passengers were advised the following:
"Passengers may take through the airport security search point, in a single (ideally transparent) plastic carrier bag, only the following items. Nothing may be carried in pockets:
• Pocket-size wallets and pocket-size purses plus contents (for example money, credit cards, identity cards etc (not handbags)
• Travel documents essential for the journey (for example passports and travel tickets)
• Prescription medicines and medical items sufficient and essential for the flight (eg, diabetic kit), except in liquid form unless verified as authentic
• Spectacles and sunglasses, without cases
• Contact lens holders, without bottles of solution
• For those travelling with an infant: baby food, milk (the contents of each bottle must be tasted by the accompanying passenger) and sanitary items sufficient and essential for the flight (nappies, wipes, creams and nappy disposal bags)
• Female sanitary items sufficient and essential for the flight, if unboxed (eg tampons, pads, towels and wipes)
• Tissues (unboxed) and/or handkerchiefs
• Keys (but no electrical key fobs).
All passengers must be hand searched, and their footwear and all the items they are carrying must be X-ray screened. "
At least you don't have to taste the female sanitary items. Just the breast milk.
The main problem for experienced travellers is the noobs who gum the whole procedure up. It may take me less than 45 seconds to pass through the security checkpoint, because I know which shoes and belt to avoid; to take off all my metal anything including watch, pager, pens, foil wrapped gum; to have my boarding pass ready for presentation, my passport close at hand; to remove all banned items from my carry-on in advance; to remove my laptop from the bag; etc.
But the noob traveller does not do any of these things. And the rest of us have to stand around while he walks through the detector wearing his jacket, then he withdraws, takes it off, puts it on the conveyor and walks through again. *beeeeep* Oh, I've got these steel-toed boots on. *beeeeep* I'm supposed to put my keys on the thing? Whoops. *beeeeep* Then the wanding. Open the belt, close it up. Turn around. Now on to the bags. "Sir, is this your bag? You're going to have to remove the scissors, the nail file, and the pocket knife. You'll also need to remove the lighter, contact lens cleaner, after shave, conditioner, shampoo, pomade, hair gel, and mousse. If you like, sir, you can return to your airline gate to check these items in your bag. Otherwise they'll have to be confiscated. Please don't use that language with me, Sir. These regulations are intended for your safety."
How safe does this make us, anyway? I have no doubt that these regulations have prevented many more incidents from occurring. Security works. Nobody's hijacked an El Al airplane in over 35 years.
I think what needs to happen, though, is a way to accommodate air travellers better. If I can't bring food and drink through security, the airlines or airport better provide it and in copious amounts. If I can't bring my toiletries on board and the airlines lose my checked luggage, they should provide a his or hers two-day toiletries supply. I shouldn't have to spend the first few hours at my destination shopping for them. And give us good stuff to read on board. And video and audio on demand. And a way to do work on board. In short, they should replace all the amenities we passengers ourselves are prevented from providing.
Technorati tags: carry on baggage, security, Heathrow, airlines, El Al