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March 06, 2007

Airport security people - the bane of modern travel

Travelling around Europe a lot we get to see the different ways that airport security is handled, and nowhere is it handled with as much rudeness and sticking to the petty letter of the regulations as it is in the UK. We are constantly dumbfounded by the glee that British airport staff take in bellowing at bemused foreigners as they rob them of their goods and dignity.

On my arrival at Heathrow last week I got to witness one member of staff shouting at a customer from about a foot away "Use your ears! That's what God gave them to you for". The fact that those ears didn't come equipped with an English-translating babel fish seemed to have passed the member of BAA staff by.

An example of the ludicrousness was when I flew back to Salzburg on Friday with a colleague. He was carrying with him exactly what he had bought into the country the previous day on a flight from Vienna to London. Whilst it had been acceptable then, the next day on the return flight going out of the UK, it now breached the hand luggage regulations, and so he was turned away and made to go and check his hand luggage into the hold.

Meanwhile, I was still queuing to get into the departures lounge. Whilst I was on the phone to Claire, and was literally about 400th in a queue to show my boarding pass, I was physically pulled out of the line, manhandled, and shouted at for not taking my coat off quickly enough. WTF?

Still, I did find Frankfurt to be the only airport on the European mainland to be taking security as seriously, and doing it as po-faced and as rudely as the UK. When I transferred from the first leg of my flight to the second leg of my flight on Friday, it involved a long walk through some gloomy corridors, and then another brush with security.

The first guy insisted that my bottle of water be x-rayed. Then, when the now irradiated water emerged from the x-ray machine, I was on the receiving end of a telling off that I shouldn't have that water there, and that I must drink it immediately. I'll just re-iterate the stupidity of this - it was a bottle of water that I had just carried off an aeroplane.

On the way out of Frankfurt on Thursday I had to go through security twice. Once through the standard checks and procedures, and then a certain number of departure gates involve going through a second, more intrusive screening, complete with staff barking at you "Put the laptop on the tray!", "Stay behind the yellow line!", and so forth.

The Germans, though, leave you in no doubt as to who to blame for this inconvenience. The security check-point is plastered with the flag of the USA, and a message that the security precautions in place are at the request of the USA government.

Still, let us just be thankful that because of our success in the the war on terror, we haven't let those evil terrorist freedom-haters change our way of life, eh?

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