The crowded conditions at UK airport security checks are a primary cause of annoyance amongst both holidaymakers and people travelling on business.
Global Increase in Airport Security Checks
The annoyance of extra security checks is a global fact of life in the post 9/11 world. Governments and airport authorities have increased the level of security in response to an increased likelihood of terrorist attacks on airports and air-travellers. Most people would agree that, although these extra checks may be annoying, anything which makes air travel safer is worthwhile.
Knowing what to expect when arriving at an airport should help things run more smoothly. The various new security measures – such as the ban on fluids – add time to every journey. Lengthy security queues are now commonplace at airports all over the world. The time it takes to get through security may be especially long at peak travel times – such as during the Christmas or summer holiday seasons. Frayed tempers and low morale will not help speed up the process. Basic common sense like getting to the airport with plenty of time will make the whole experience less stressful.
Security Checks on Leaving the UK
The level of security and the specific security requirements may vary according to flight destination and airline. America-bound flights continue to attract a higher level of security checks than flights to other destinations. Therefore, passengers travelling to the US should allow even more time to get through the airport.
All passengers should expect to be asked whether they packed their bags themselves – together with other related questions about luggage. Any attempts at a humorous response will almost certainly result in trouble with the authorities and a missed flight. The ban on sharp objects in hand luggage remains and any sharp objects found in hand luggage will be removed. A comprehensive list of other objects and substances which are banned from flights and / or hand luggage is available on airport websites (and at the airport itself).
When passing through security all liquids, gels, creams and similar substances to be carried in hand luggage must be in sealed containers no larger than 100 ml. All such containers must then be presented in a transparent sealed plastic bag, no larger than 1 litre in capacity. Each passenger is allowed only one bag. Exceptions may apply to the 100ml rule in respect of baby foods and essential medicines but further security requirements may apply. Transit passengers should note that any duty-free purchases bought en route that exceed 100 ml will not be allowed through security.
Passengers may be asked to remove shoes as well as belts and some other items of clothing / accessories. Anything metal in pockets should also be removed before passing through the security scanners. Laptop computers should be taken out of bags and put through the scanner separately.
Body Scanners at UK Airports
There are arguments for and against the universal use of body scanners as part of airport security. Body scanners were introduced at UK airports in early 2010. Their implementation was rushed forward following an apparent attempt, on Christmas Day 2009, to blow up an aeroplane flying to the USA. Any passenger who is required to go through a body scanner but refuses may not be allowed onto their plane.
Some travellers and human rights campaigners have been concerned about the use of equipment which produces a virtual “naked” image of travellers – including children. Conversely many travellers may feel that the body scanner is an efficient way of getting through security checks – and may actually find it less invasive than the traditional pat-down body search.
Reviewing Security Measures at UK Airports
To some airport observers, it seems obvious that security measures should be regularly reviewed. The Board of Airline Representatives (BAR UK), which represents more than 80 airlines, has called on the UK government to allow changes to airport security regulations. A spokesperson for BAR UK said in October 2010 that the travel industry should take an objective look at the security situation to assess what was needed. He also suggested putting an end to some security checks which he considered to be redundant – such as making passengers remove shoes before going through security. In response, the Department for Transport said there were no current plans to change rules on checking laptops and shoes.
Many aviation security analysts believe that current scanning technology is sufficient to detect any suspicious devices and also that continual improvements in the scanning process are keeping up with security threats. Some dismiss the shoe check as redundant – and suggest that redesigning the architecture of the entire security checkpoint is long overdue.