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Airport Security: the basics

Budapest Ferihegy Airport recently failed its annual security audit, bringing to light more than a few security concerns when flying in Europe. On top of this a few cleaning staff at London Luton airport were arrested this week after bring caught red-handed stealing from passengers bags. So what’s the deal with airport security?

Airport security is something we often loathe, the lines can be hideously long, sometimes we’re the lucky ones chosen for a manual search or pat-down. Security though is something we as travellers really take for granted. It’s easy to think our flight will not be the one hijacked as we’re often too busy already thinking of our future destinations. As much as we like to grumble about security checks it’s essential to remember why they’re there, to protect us, not to embarrass or stress us out. Many travellers take their own actions to protect themselves and their belongings though too.

Luggage locks for example are put on suitcases to prevent theft by the people who are actually supposed to stop crime. Although some think it’s a good idea, security has every right to cut them off should they feel the need to search your bags for whatever reason. If you’re heading west on flights to the USA you might consider buying TSA approved locks, ones which can be opened only by you and an authorized TSA representative.

Body scanners are the latest addition to many airport security protocols, to much controversy around the world. Although some countries like the UK are against putting children through the scanners, many countries are signing up for trial periods to scan passengers for switch-blades, hidden guns and knives… and it’s working. Currently there are 32 American airports with full systems installed and a dozen internationally. Travellers with flights from London can expect to be screened at London Heathrow before boarding their plane.

5 Tips to make Airport Security a breeze:

  • Pack your valuables in your carry-on luggage, not in your checked baggage. Airport theft happens all over the world and if you are travelling with valuables like jewellery and electronics you may think twice about putting them in your check-in luggage. Keep everything valuable, including travel documents, on your person so that you can keep an eye on them.
  • If you are travelling with gifts, in both your check-in and carry-0n luggage leave them unwrapped. If not they will be unwrapped for inspection should the security personnel feel the need. Instead pack your wrapping paper separately.
  • In, out, off: put all your metal items in your carry-on before getting in line or while waiting. This included any jewellery, watches, belts with buckles, etc. Take out your laptop computer from its case and place it in a separate bin. Take off your coat or other bulky sweaters or suit jackets.
  • Liquids. It seems that the regulations change constantly when it comes to liquid, gel and water restrictions. They also differ between airports,  regions and continents. Your best bet is to check the airport website before packing your carry-on for the latest news or just don’t pack anything liquid at all. This includes hand creams, toothpaste, contact lens solution, wine, hair products, etc.
  • As for camera equipment, never pack analogue film in checked luggage. The screening machines will damage it. It’s safe to say that most travellers these days use digital but along the same lines, be prepared to turn your camera on and off, show the batteries or display the last photo taken.

Have you ever had anything confiscated by security? Have you ever gone through a full-body scanner before? Tell us about your experiences! Img: Jaunted

8 comments

  • Svein Fagerthun Reply

    Hello I went through bodyscanner at List airport Budapest. I wonder what kind of radiation they emit, is itdangerous ionizing radiation?

    Regards

    Svein Fagerthun

  • Katie Reply

    Wow! But you know… probably they wanted all the Lego foam sword fun for themselves. It's a pity though, really.

  • Security Reply

    Lego foam sword stolen by Heathrow security.
    Incredible!!!
    A foam sword, completely foam, elastic. Flat and painted…stolen by security and for security reasons… are we crazy of what?

  • Almak Reply

    All these things have been stolen from you?

  • Burned Reply

    Any tips from keeping the TSA from stealing work items from your carry-on while you are being virtually stripped searched? Things in general like smart-phones, cameras, computer equipment, and so forth…

  • Wimpie Reply

    In the 21st century, if you want to terrorize a society, you just have to make improbable threats, press the anxiety buttons and watch them protect themselves to death.

    Your adversary will spend billions to your hundreds – The best ROI ever!

    Do it several times and the billions will amount to more than the GNP of many countries – How's that for effective?

    Why does our government buy into this, when what they REALLY need is good old-fashion police work to find these bad actors before they get to the Plane or Bus or Subway or Public Building. They can't protect them all.

    Why the PARANOID security at the airports? It hasn't worked in the past. Nobody has ever been caught before an event, and we've had a few slip by. What makes people think we will be able to catch serious bad actors now? Besides, chances are bad actors will just go somewhere else, equally dramatic.

    It's impossible to discover a one in a several billion event by screening people!

    What's it cost for all this nonsense in REAL TERMS?

    My guess (last 9 years)

    $50 Billion for the 55,000 gov't workers that keep unemployment under 15%
    $200 Billion or more in lost productivity for millions of Americans.
    This is real money even by government standards, but it has resulted in NOTHING!

    We could colonize Mars for this kind of money, but TSA would probably put some of the Astronauts on the NFL.

    TSA Needs a complete overhaul, starting first by lopping off the bottom. Privatization would be even better. We need to restore our 4th amendment!