Over the years I have spent a lot of time in airport security, and to me there is one single overriding aim – get in, get out with the minimum of effort and in the fastest time possible. After all, the restaurants shops and bars are a much more attractive proposition than this god forsaken area.
And over that time I have adopted some simple techniques that help me achieve it.
I kid you not, it frustrates me to hell and back these days watching some people just acting totally stupidly and dragging out the whole process.
So. Let me share my 5 top tips you might want to think about next time you travel…
- Before you even set off
These days you will check-in a lot of the time online, and hence you may not actually speak to anyone in the airport and you WON’T be confronted with the old “Have you packed your own bags” like in the old days.
But that doesn’t stop you go online and finding out any restrictions you need to be aware of. Most airline sites have this information freely available.
There is nothing worse than someone turning up with a contraband item at security, which they then either have to throw away or choose not to fly – both potentially a costly result.
One of my work colleagues once took a very expensive pearl handled manicure set in his hand luggage, and was horrified to be asked to put it in the bin. Why risk it? Put it in your check-in luggage.
Actually there IS something worse – it’s the passenger who flatly refuses to remove such an item and holds up the queue while they argue it out.
Think while you are packing – Do I REALLY need to take this on the plane, or can I survive without it until I reach my destination? If the latter, pack it in your checked in baggage and save some hassle. Of course, these days, more and more people take hand luggage only, and are therefore tempted to sneak something in there that they are not supposed to take on board.
So before you even arrive at the airport, check the restrictions and ensure you are not carrying anything that you shouldn’t have in your hand luggage.
2. Which bit don’t you understand about liquids?
Nothing cheeses me off more than the person who is asked “do you have any liquids?” then holds up the queue while the x-ray man has to shunt the bag to double check what he has just spotted. Luckily these days they have a diversion system to take you out of the main queue but when the rule first came in, I spent many a minute (seemed like hours) behind the woman who had over a litre of expensive cosmetics that she was not prepared to throw away, or the guy who insisted in drinking his bottle of Coke before passing through the scanner.
So. If you insist on taking cosmetics, remember -no more than a litre of any liquids or gels in total, and no more than 100ml in each item, in a clear resealable bag (approx 8″ x 8″ and it must be able to close fully) – you aren’t going through with them loose in your hand.
Full details can be easily found on the internet.
And get it out ready as you arrive at the conveyor – don’t go rummaging for it on arrival.
Metal detectors have been around a long time so you shouldn’t be surprised to find one at the airport unless you’ve never flown before. Nothing makes me more angry than the guy who, having just been asked if he has a phone, or anything metal on him, then sets off the detector multiple times due to pockets full of change, his metal cigarette case, hip flask (yes seriously! See point 2 about liquids), business card holder, dictaphone, spare phone back up battery, and 5m metal tape measure. Actually the last one was me. I wanted to know how long the flight was.
This is really easy. Put everything you have in your pockets in the tray. And if you don’t relish the time it takes to reload your pockets, then don’t take it in your pockets in the first place. Carry a little handbag or man bag and put everything in there – BEFORE you get to the conveyor of course.
Don’t forget to put your passport in the tray too – the biochip’s aerial loop in the passport can set the detector off as well.
4. Think ahead
OK – So now you are in the queue. Let’s start getting ready for your turn, because when you arrive you are going to fly through like a seasoned professional aren’t you?
If you have a laptop, you KNOW it has to be in a tray on it’s own. Ipads and tablets too these days. So get your bag unzipped just enough that you can pull your laptop or tablet out as you line up with your tray. You know they want your phone – so either have that ready too or put it in your coat pocket. I normally say – “in my coat” – and that’s sufficient.
Large metal jewellery, watches, ear rings, and of course belt buckles? Take them off NOW and drop them in your hand luggage. Don’t wait until you get to the conveyor to start stripping off. And please, don’t assume they will let you through with a belt if you manage to sneak it past them. The detector WILL go off, you WILL be sent back, and you WILL hold me up too. So take it off. If your trousers fall down without your belt, you need to be wearing better trousers.
Not all airports worry about loose change, and not all detectors see it, but if you happen to have thirty quid of 10p pieces on you, I suggest that goes into your bag too.
Coats, jackets, hoodies, large cardigans, body warmers and scarves need to be taken OFF now and draped over your arm ready to drop in the tray. Don’t leave it until you get there.
Shoes – these are the only thing I say keep on, UNLESS it says clearly in the airport that they must be removed. A tip on shoes, you have less chance of having to take them off if they are of a style that you are not going to be able to conceal anything in. Avoid shoes with huge metal studs or clasps, large blocky heels, thick soles and of course boots. Anything calf to knee high is very likely to have to be taken off, in case you’ve slipped your samurai sword in there.
It amazes me how people can be so indignant when it’s really only common sense; you’re going to have anything from 5 – 15 mins (if you are unlucky) in that queue up to the conveyor – so plenty of time to prepare.
5. Follow the rules and be careful what you say
If you want to find yourself in trouble, try hopping lanes, jumping the queues or back-chatting the staff. Today, you need to be compliant. They are, for the next 15 minutes, gods with ultimate power to make your life a misery.
Seriously though, they are doing a job, keeping us all safe. Don’t give them a hard time. I know a lot of people think they are scary and aloof, but I always greet the staff with a friendly “good morning” and a smile. You don’t need to go over the top, anything more might come over as suspicious and thus counter-productive!
And if they have the ultimaste difficult traveller in front of you, and you can see the traveller is blatantly being stupid, when it’s your turn don’t be afraid to roll your eyes, tut loudly and say something like “some people are just thick – I wouldn’t have your job for the world”. I think that acknowledgment is sometimes hugely appreciated.
And of course, if you want to definitely chance missing your flight altogether, throw some serious verbal abuse at them or better still, joke about the “bomb” you’ve got tucked inside your knickers!
Yes, it happened once, right next to me in the queue. A young girl who thought she was being clever in front of her mates. Without a word, she was dragged away by armed police. And most likely then suffered a quite embarrassing search while they tried to substantiate her claims.
I was on my second cup of coffee after breakfast when I saw her finally escorted by armed police to a seat at her gate. Personally I think she was lucky to have gotten through.
You want to be treated with respect? – so do the security staff, so be sensible, polite and friendly as you pass through.