What are your best/worst airport security experiences?

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This topic contains 81 replies, has 37 voices, and was last updated by  SimonRowberry 12 Mar 2012
at 19:11

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  • Anonymous

    We are researching a feature on airport security and would like your input. What airport security horror stories do you have? And which airports have you had the most stress-free experiences, and why?

    What improvements would you like to see in terms of regulation and technology? How much of your personal privacy are you willing to give up in the name of security? Body scanners – yes or no? Biometrics – the way forward?

    We value your insights!


    Most of my stress-free experiences have been centred round small airports like London City, Luxembourg, Newcastle, Lyon and Billund. Modern facilities and polite staff make these experiences more stress-free than others. Larger hubs with out-dated or over-crowded facilities tend to be the worst eg. Schiphol Schengen gates, Milan Linate, Heathrow pre-T5 and Dublin pre-T2. The most consistently poor security search area I’ve been through is Copenhagen T2/T3 combined search area, where I always allow 30-45mins to pass through.

    I am fortunate enough that I often have access to fast-track lanes, which do make a difference. However the lanes at T5 do not offer a significantly faster processing time than the other lanes. Best practice I see is the No.1 Priority Lane at CDG 2E where I do not think that I’ve ever had more than three people in-front of me in the queue.

    I’ve been through the body scanners at Schipol gate C6 a number of times, they really don’t concern me at all. However in my opinion they do not speed up the processing volume of passengers. Until the processing time of these units comes down I do not want to see them being introduced more widely.

    Ultimately I’m want to see faster processing times, larger preparation areas for passengers to get electronics and liquids out of the bag and remove shoes etc. and better monitoring of queues to ensure a more even distribution of passengers through the security processing areas. I’d also like to see a truly differentiated fast-track experience for premium passengers (similar to the new Gatwick North and Virgin Upper Class T3 lanes).


    Would certainly like to see the Iris scan continued, but LGW has dropped it and LHR seems indifferent towards it at best.

    Worst experience was definitely two years ago at T3. The staff insisted that a sealable sandwich bag I used for liquids (and had used even since the new 100ml rules came in) could not be used and I had to use instead a 6×6 bag which was too small for everything I had (toothpaste, shaving gel etc) to fit into one bag and seal.

    I eventually used two that were open, used a different lane and passed through without a problem. When I queried this at the security desk immediately afterwards and told them I’d been using that bag at T5 for months if not years, the guy at the desk ignored me then walked off halfway through the conversation for his break!

    Struggling to keep my cool, I eventually spoke to his supervisor who had seen everything and admitted he was in the wrong, but said that the 6x6in bag was BAA official rules. I don’t mind rules, but they need to be consistent and they take the ultra-aggressive US security stance to trying to have a rational debate about it.

    I’ve since flown through T3 and not had a problem with a (new) bag that’s patently larger that 6x6in. Just ridiculous.


    Best Honolulu, quick , courteous and no damage to bags. Worst joint LAX and LHR. LHR complain about non metirc plastic bag, tell you not to take stuff out of bag or remove shoes and then go through everything because they “see something”. LAX search bags and close cases with clothes hanging out or open bottles and jars and then do not close them properly so contents leak.


    With regards to the British Airports:

    1. There has to be a way to reduce q’s, especially by making passengers more aware.

    2. The liquid policy is now an absolute joke. In the US, the staff and crew lines, now permit, officially or otherwise water water bottles through.

    3. I no longer bother with the plastic bags, have all sorts of mini liquids in my flight bag and they are NEVER now picked up. This includes low fat yogurt cartons.

    4. A far higher level of professionalism by the staff at UK airports. Texting by front line staff should be banned, joking around between the staff should banned and the absolutely ludicrous situation of a security office confiscating items of liquid, only to hand them back to the passenger because he was too busy talking to his colleague to realize what he had done.

    5. The appalling aggression showed by management whenever they are critizised. This occurred when I made the observation of (4) to the duty manager who couldn’t be bothered.

    6. The intrusive body searches that on occasion do border an assault! With the body scanners and metal detectors they can be absolutely no reason for “hand job searches” to be made over the crotch areas of men or for fingers to be inserted on the inside of the waist line of trousers extending down by an inch or so.

    Apart from 1 – 6, life is good in the security lanes!


    worst airport security experiences..

    When the IRIS is out of order…Grrrr

    Last couple of arrivals including recently from NY with Virgin the 2x units at T3 were working satisfactory…happy.

    Couple of characters followed us down the lane but realised that it was not for them.

    IRIS is a Great idea and should be expanded all over the country…on the land,on the beaches etc..

    Always travel light with no duty free,liquids etc.and carry a shoulder bag/rucksack with netbook, Kindle and toothbrush..so no real hassles


    Does Iris form part of this discussion? its not security as such…..


    I remember a few years ago asking the Chief Executive of one of the Uk’s largest airports what he wanted to achieve before he retired (about 18 months ahead of the event). His reply was to be able to travel through a security channel in his airport and not see a single security guard chewing gum.

    Sadly, he failed to achieve his dream.


    As a fan of IRIS I think that its not only a good way of avoiding the long drawn out shambolic parade of “suspects”slowly shuffling their way to the man at the desk..usuually sweating in case they get the knockback…but is a vital security component to our welbeing.

    Following the recent charades over UKBA-Home Sect mandates allowing anybody into the place without the appropriate clearance I can only surmise that any Taliban /Wahabi inspired terriost activists are already here and dont need to prove that they have my blue eyes,,,but hopefully I am on” the book”s and I dont worry who knows it…Nowt tae hide.

    Incid when the games start I am off to Bangkok.


    Best security experience would have to be Virgin Private Security at LHR followed by London City.

    Worst would have to be Zurich to get to A gates or to get to the bus gates where LCY flights depart from.

    Have been in scanner at LHR T1 found the experience quite claustrophobic, most alarming experience when I set off metal detecter at a UK airport and the 2 male operatives were talking to each other and didnt notice that I had activated this and did not ask me to stop. Now I know I had nothing that could harm and aircraft but did they.

    Also really wish the liquid rules would be reviewed..


    I think Changi, Singapore would be one of my top choices. Security officers are courteous and professional in their work – yes, there has been the occasional chats amongst themselves, but at least they don’t ignore the passengers. They are simply efficient.

    Hong Kong queues can be long, but they do get the lines moving relatively fast – however I think they can afford to be a little more courteous – simple greetings, a smile, etc.

    Atlanta will be my worse experience – very unfriendly and you feel as if they are doing you a favor by all heckling your bags and allowing you through to board your flight. Very slow, and do not have much eye contact with passengers. Other major US airports (LAX, JFK, SFO, etc) have been fine for me (so far).

    LHR, AMS, CDG hubs can also be a little friendlier. At times I’m curious whether the security officers are passionate about their work and care about the security of air travelers or are there merely “doing their job” (hence the gloomy faces with the additional security precautions).


    The worst experience I have endured was pre 9-11, arriving into Newark I could not find my way out after collecting my bags so asked a gentleman in uniform where the exit was and he asked me to follow him, which I did only to be told I was being selected for secondary screening (he was a customs officer) and he then proceeded to go through my bag with a very fine toothcomb, questioning me etc and he then for some reason informed me that he had his suspicions about me and he wanted to cut open my suitcase to check for hidden items, I told him I had no problem with this as long as when he found nothing he provided me with a similar suitcase that I could put my belongings in, and he informed me he would not provide me with a replacement bag to which I replied “so am I meant to take my belongings in a bin liners?” and his response was “Dont be smart with me” this lead to a loud and heated argument where I stood my ground and eventually a supervisor came over and I explained the situation, he apologised for having delayed me and wished me a good stay in NYC.

    The best was being patted down rather intimately by a rather pretty security agent at Beijing Airport 😉

    I wonder how long it will be before the IATA future checkpoint becomes a widespread international reality? Thoughts?



    My best experiences are SIN, HKG and MUC

    Worst is LHR by a huge margin. I agree with everything Martyn says above. I also find small regional airports paricularly painful where the staff may not be that busy and so their jobsworth attitude comes to the fore. I was through NCL last week and it was particularly unpleasant.

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