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Air Travel – a necessary inconvenience….

checkin2The best tip for airport security check-in is to ensure knowledge of procedure. You would be as unlikely to leave your passport behind than you would your common sense. Both are essential for travel. Oddly, many people appear to lose at least one of these prerequisites.

Delays at airport security are invariably a consequence of the unscrupulous methods employed by terrorists to cause disaster. The strict impositions imposed at airports today have been common for several years ever since 911, and other attempts by some individuals to detonate devices utilising seemingly innocent and innocuous articles regarded as essential travel requirements. Richard Reid, the shoe bomber was fortunately prevented from attempting to ignite an incendiary device in one of his shoes on a transatlantic plane, thanks to the vigilance of a fellow passenger.

Other attempts have been combated when it was discovered that liquids could be diabolically used as combustion when linked to a remote electronic signal hidden in something as mundane as a cell phone or belt buckle. Over Christmas 2009  Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab smuggled a bomb in his underwear. He successfully boarded a plane because his nefarious device was hidden in a place where officials feared to tread. This brought in full body scanners, which are an extremely contentious issue.

If we assume that terrorists are constantly seeking new and innovative ways to bring disaster at worst or gross inconvenience at best to international air travel, then delays at airports will be an ongoing and probably never ending imposition which all travellers must endure. Therefore sensible preparation to encourage smooth passage should be common sense.

We all need to wear shoes, most of us need to wear a belt, and underwear is essential. So wear shoes that are simple to remove, and if you must wear a belt then take it off in advance. The implementation of full body scanners may not spare your dignity of having to expose your psychedelic boxer shorts or thongs (depending on taste), and as your face will not be associated with the rest of your torso, there really is no need to feel violated (officially). Besides, any objection, be they on moral or religious grounds will only result in preventing you from going any further. I’m speaking as a man, but female readers can easily equate to my point.

Well that’s the personal matters dealt with, so lets consider the rest. Liquids are permitted provided that they do not exceed 100ml in volume, and no more than ten items. They should be placed in a clear plastic bag and kept easily accessible for examination. Liquids will include toiletries such as perfume, after-shave, toothpaste, creams and mouthwash. Medicines and baby requirements should be allowed, but always check before you travel.

Next – consider sharp implements. Penknives will be confiscated along with anything else considered sharp or dangerous. Keys will be scrutinized – even nail clippers. Expect to lose anything which could fall into these categories (house and car keys will pass as long as they aren’t ringed on a knuckleduster). All metal must be placed in the tray that goes through scanners. Money, cellphones, laptop computers, Ipads/androids tablets, watches, jewellery and even hearing aids will be subject to inspection. Keep the devices in standby and easily accessible – some security staff ask for it to be switched on to demonstrate that it’s genuine. Imagine having to start up a laptop and the time it takes. And whilst I remember – don’t carry spare lithium batteries for computers or phones in check-in luggage – carry them in your hand luggage. If you must open your check-in luggage, then keep the padlock keys handy (and if using a combination lock – write the code down as by then you’ll be too flustered to remember it).

Jackets, overcoats and gillets all go in the tray. You need to pass through the security scanner without a bleep. If one goes off, then back you go. Succeed and you will feel accomplished. Fail and your stress levels will rise. Once through you will have to reconnect with everything previously parted from you. This can be equally exhausting, especially when you are fighting for space, or inadvertently mistaking the wrong tray (it’s a jungle in there!).  I’ve often wondered, having removed all my metals, that I pass through the detectors still wearing my wedding ring. How does that happen? I know it’s gold!

This is not fool-proof advice – airport security varies from country to country. For example your nail-clippers may get unrestricted passage through Heathrow, but definitely not in Hong Kong. You may have to remove shoes and belts in some places, but not in others.

Preparation is the key, but you cannot account for the person in front who may delay you. So if all else fails, be thankful that you don’t have holes in your socks. Now, that could be very embarrassing.

Above all swallow your pride and travel confidently. Wear your best comfortable clothes and invest in the best luggage. Don’t check in cardboard boxes as an alternative – it will be frowned upon – especially if you’ve wrapped them up with so much tape that will have to be removed if you have to open them. Smile, be friendly, be agreeable. Don’t complain, don’t criticise, don’t be officious or arrogant. Remember, you need to get on the plane as comfortably as possible – inconvenience is the price we pay in order to get to our destination. And if you think it is a big hassle – it is. All air passengers are victims of international terrorism and even lone, unstable individuals and dare I say, ignorant and idiotic families.

If you don’t need to fly, don’t – however the alternatives are very limited! If time isn’t money, then seek other methods wherever possible.

This is my baker’s dozen of do’s and don’ts:

1. Don’t tip the security guards

2. Wear slip on shoes. Velcro style is good. Easy to remove and put back on.

3. Don’t wear a belt. If you must, take it off in advance in the queue. Along with your shoes (see #2)

4. Don’t buy water until you enter the Duty Free Area. You will lose it. Unless you are prepared to drink it quickly. If you do then keep your empty bottle. You can fill it up (possibly) at the public drinking fountains. Most airports provide them near the toilets. Bottled water is expensive to buy, so this may be an important consideration.

5. Keep all liquids in a small transparent plastic bag. No more than ten items and each must not be more than 100ml. Ditch the toiletries. Prioritise. Put medicine first if they are important. Many major airlines provide the requisite bags for purpose, but don’t count on it. You could put all these in your hand-carry – but don’t bother. Carry them separately until you have got through, and then put them where you like!

6: Ditch unnecessary metal. Get ready to deposit the essentials in a plastic tray. Think coins, phone, keys, laptops, iPads and tablets, spectacles, hearing aids with metal fittings etc etc….

7: Keep your passport, tickets and boarding pass handy. That should be #1. Are you thinking straight?

8: Be patient. Be respectful and charming. If you can’t do that then just keep your mouth shut.

9: Remove jackets and overcoats. Check the pockets. Just find a nice big tray and throw caution to the wind.

10: Don’t put valuables in the check-in luggage, and make sure you stick to the weight allowance. Three reasons: 1. You may have to open them. 2. You may have to pay a surcharge. 3. You may lose your suitcase altogether.

Lost luggage is a common problem.

11: Don’t be a smart arse. And don’t make jokes about bombs or terrorism. Airport security officials have absolutely no sense of humour wherever in the world they are, and a silly misguided witticism will result in a missed flight and possibly interrogation and examination.

12. Check-in online whenever possible. It’s the sensible thing to do – with luck you can choose your own seat, print your boarding pass, and possibly avoid the queues.

13. And finally… If you are travelling to the USA – read all this again (and again), and don’t be surprised if your luggage (inbound or outbound) has been opened for inspection without notice.

Disclaimer: Always check on airline and specific country regulations before you travel. 

March 23, 2015 Posted by | Air Travel, Culture, Current Affairs, Education, Europe, Travel | , , , | 2 Comments


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