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Why I think that airport security is plane crazy

By Frances Burscough

Published 18/07/2015

Frances Burscough
Frances Burscough

Everyone who has ever travelled abroad has their own memorable experiences of airport security. Whether it’s funny, outrageous or downright incredible, we’ve all got a story to tell. As a seasoned traveller, I have too many to mention, so I’ll limit mine to one from each of those three categories; namely funny, outrageous and downright incredible.

The funniest incident I can recall (like most of my funniest incidents) involves my dad. It was about five years ago when he was in his late seventies and we were returning en masse from a family holiday in Lanzarote. Like many folk from his generation, he just could not fathom nor accept the new international regulations at airport security. Although he’s been told time and time again about the 100ml rule (ie. that no liquids, creams or gels above 100ml are allowed to be stored in hand luggage) he simply wasn’t prepared to accept it. End of story.

“What the bloody hell is that all about? It’s bloody ridiculous!” he would say loudly and belligerently whenever he was reminded.

So of course when we were putting our bags through the scanner at airport departures, he’d made no attempt whatsoever to follow the strict enforcement. As my dad’s hold-all went through the X-ray machine there was a loud bleep and a lot of fuss.

“Excuse me please, but whose bag is this?” called out the Spanish security man. Dad lifted his hand, whilst everyone in the queue looked on. The guard and his colleagues tutted and shook their heads as they pulled out a six pack of Stella Artois.

“You cannot take this through the barriers!” they said, incredulous that anyone would even try to pull off such an audacious stunt.

“Bloody ridiculous!” dad said loudly, before taking his beer over to a bench and cracking open the first one. He then demanded that we all join him, take one each and drink it down in one, before proceeding any further. It was 9.30 in the morning and we were all necking lager while my dad cursed. It could have been a scene from Shameless. Stay classy,


As for my most outrageous experience, this occurred at JFK when I was returning from a business trip to New York. In front of me in the security line at Departures was an old man in his late 80s in a wheelchair. The woman in uniform took his wheelchair off him so he could go through the scanner. “Belt please!” she shouted.  He struggled to take off his belt. As he was walking through the detector, his trousers fell down. I was mortified, but probably not as mortified as he was in front of a thousand strangers. Meanwhile the staff just looked on, their only concern that this crippled octogenarian wasn’t carrying any contraband.

Now, bearing in mind the extreme measures of personal scrutiny we are all put through, what happened to me this week is pretty incredible.

I was doing a quick whistle-stop trip to London from Belfast to attend my son’s graduation ceremony. I won’t say which airline it was, but I booked my flight online and then printed off my boarding passes for both flights in advance. So in the click of a single button I was good to go, no questions asked.

Then, unbelievably, I made the entire trip without being asked to show my passport at any time or any stage, by anyone. Oh of course I had to show my toiletries and they were duly scrutinised. I had my mobile phone swabbed (don’t ask me why?), I had to remove my shoes and my jacket and to empty my pockets, and all that palaver at check-in. But all I had to do to gain access to the plane was to flash a photocopied bar-code once at a stewardess on each trip. Seriously, I could have been anyone. I asked around my fellow travellers and none of them had shown their passports either. Since when did a 120ml jar of Nivea Cream become potentially more dangerous than a human being? 

I just cannot wait to tell my dad. I know in advance what he’s going to say about it all.

The words bugger and bloody spring to mind.

Belfast Telegraph

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