Rumble: 30 things I do not understand about airport security

airport security

I am a frequent traveller. A very frequent traveller. With questions.

1. Why can I not go through security with a flask of aftershave, but can buy all the aftershave I want in the duty free? If duty free goods are screened in a different way, why can my check-in luggage not be screened in the same way?

2. How come I can not take any liquid on board, but I can put all the liquid I want in my check-in luggage? If check-in luggage is screened in a different way, how come carry-on can not be screened in the same way? How come I can not take a bottle of water on board, even though I could drink it to show how harmless it is?

3. How come I have to put things like a deodorant and toothpaste in a sealed zip-lock plastic bag, but no-one ever sees or asks to see the bag tucked in my carry-on?

4. If my Leatherman with a 1.5 inch blade does not get it through security, how come I buy dozens of things more dangerous at the duty free (ever seen what damage a broken bottle can do?).

5. How come some airlines serve meals with stainless steel knives and forks? Why does the restaurant in the waiting lounge serve meals with stainless steel knives and forks?

6. How come the metal strings on my guitar are not considered as dangerous goods? Ever seen what damage my thin "high E"-string can do when strapped around a person's neck?

7. How come a sharpened pencil is not considered a dangerous good? Ever seen the damage a pencil does when pushed through someone's nose?

8. How come my glasses are not considered a dangerous good? They showed how to use it as a weapon in The Godfather III, didn't they?

9. How come needles and syringes are not seen as dangerous goods? How come nobody ever checks what the liquid is in the ampules I carry on? How dangerous could the combination of syringes with liquid morphine ampules be? Or the combination of a lighter, syringe and a combustible fluid in an ampule?

10. How come airport security screening never catches the three metal bottles of compressed air of our self-inflating sailing life jackets when we check it in with our luggage, but there is no way in hell we would get it on board as carry-on?

11. How come security confiscated the horse-shoe my daughter wanted to carry-on?

12. How come some airports confiscate lighters and others don't? Why do some confiscate matches and others don't? Why do some only allow one single box of matches? Why do some confiscate Zippo-lighters and others don't? What is more dangerous: a single Zippo lighter or five throw-away plastic lighters with lighter fluid in them?

13. How come in some airports, I just show a piece of paper, allegedly representing a printout of my Internet check-in, and they let me into the departure hall, and through security without scanning the barcode to see if I did not fake the print-out?

14. How come I could get on a flight even though the boarding pass was not in my name?

15. How come no-one at the gate ever checks if my plastified ID card is real? How come I can board a flight even though the lady at the gate said "I have never seen an ID-card like this!".

16. As it has been proven some lithium-ion laptop batteries are a fire hazard, can explode generating heat up to 1000 degrees, how come they don't have to be removed from laptops? How come some airlines offer adapters to charge laptops inflight?

17. How come in some airports I need to go through a security screening when entering the airport, one when entering the departure area, and one just before entering the boarding area? Just to make sure?

18. How come I could walk from the arrivals hall, back into the luggage-belt area and nobody stopped me?

19. How come the lady at the check-in counter laughs when I answer the question "Did you pack your bags yourself", with "No, my wife did."

20. How come everyone lies when asked the question "Was the luggage with you at all times?", like it was never held in the hotel luggage room by the bellboy, never stowed in the trunk of the airport shuttle, or left alone in the hotel room.

21. How come I can pick up someone else's luggage from the belt, and walk out of the airport without being checked?

22. How come, with all the security cameras around, people have their handluggage stolen at the check-in counter?

23. How come I can put my two mobile phones in the tray next to the metal detector and pick them up at the other side without them being screened?

24. How come some airport metal detectors go bazurk when I forget to take off my watch, and others don't?

25. How come I always fear for my harddisk when I see the way the security staff handles the tray in which I put my computer? Why can I not complain without being arrested for contempt?

26. How come the shuttle bus from the departure gate to the plane can drop us off at the wrong plane?

27. How come, allegedly for security reasons, I can not board with a computer bag and a small trolley, but it is OK if I put the bag in the trolley? How come it is OK to have two carry-ons when flying business class then?

28. How come I can ask a friend to hold my excess carry-on out of sight of the check-in counter, deny having any carry-on when checking in, and pick up the carry-on again before going through security?

29. How come, allegedly for security reasons, I am only allowed one bag with certain maximum weight and dimensions as carry-on, but can buy 15 bags of duty free stuff?

30. How come airlines do not award passengers when they can prove the security staff did not check thoroughly? Why am I regarded as a moron when I show what I managed to get through security this time? Why am I regarded as a nuisance when I tell the security staff they are not paying attention when I walked through the metal detector?

31. How come nobody asks these questions aloud?

More posts on The Road about flying, airports and travel.

Cartoon courtesy U.S. News & World Report


Anonymous,  12 October, 2008 10:59  

21: In russia, they check if the luggage you are carrying out is yours. I learned the hard way (ripped of the paper strap before leaving).

Nick 12 October, 2008 13:02  

Despite the fact that it is no longer a rule to take off your shoes at the airport, the TSA obviously wasn't informed. I was detained at the Cleveland Airport because I refused to take off my shoes.

Oh, and remember the guys who tried blowing up the plane with the liquids, thereby enacting the vapid "no liquids" policies we have now? They were all acquitted last month. Yes, acquitted.

Anonymous,  12 October, 2008 14:15  

As I read your post I kept picturing a Jew speaking to a Nazi. "Why don't the Nazi's look in the attics? Don't they know you could put a whole family up there"

Peter 12 October, 2008 15:53  

@Anonymous: the only airports I had to do this were in Africa, strangely enough...

@Nick: I did not know the 'Liquid guys" were acquitted.. I am trying to remember the name of the British guy, so I can read up on what happened in the trial.

@Anonymous2: a bit of a tricky comparison, but I understand what you mean ;-)

Anonymous,  12 October, 2008 16:06  

In russia, luggage checks You

vagabondblogger 12 October, 2008 16:09  

You ask too many questions!

Going through all the different security procedures doesn't bother me, if I can get the hell through it without interference. It's the interference along with the sheer glee from the security personnel when they find you with prohibitive items (in my case: an Opinel, Swiss Army Knife, and liquids - 3 different times.) They act like they've found a hidden treasure (which they did with my Opinel - accidently packed in carry-on instead of checked luggage.)

And, the fact that they raise these items over their heads screaming "LIQUID, LIQUIDS!" or in the case of my Opinel, opening it up and shouting, "Sharp Object! No, you can not take this on! Tehee, tehee."

I just keep repeating to myself, "chill, chill...."

Anonymous,  12 October, 2008 16:32  

That Anonymous about Nazis is a straw man.

The only question here which is basically incorrect is about carry on bags. It's not a security issue, it's a space issue. If you buy too much in Duty Free you still have to find a place to store it on the plane.

Peter 12 October, 2008 16:47  

To keep the conversation going I copied and pasted some of the comments made on this post in "Reddit".

My reply is in bold - Peter

One person went through point by point. My reply is in bold - Peter

1. Because (at least where I've been) they wrap your duty free liquids in a sealed bag and stamp it to show that it has been sold at the duty free and is therefore definetely free of danger. My question remains: why can't we screen carryon in the same way

2. Do you have access to your check in luggage on board? I didn't think so. dangerous goods are dangerous goods

3. Some people go to great lengths to hide things. exactly my point. And I don't even try anything malicious. So if *I* can get away with it, why can't those who intent to harm?

4. (first number 4)They can see it in the X-Ray machine. (second number 4)So you're going to just get up with a bottle, and smash it? With a knife you can be surreptitious, just grab someone and cut them. With a bottle you must prepare it (i.e. smash it). aha

5. I don't know. You've got me there, why not tell them so they can give us some crappy plastic ones? no, I want to take my Leatherman on board, mummyyyyy! ;-)

6. I'm sure you can't do much with a guitar string. And if someone saw you wrapping wire around your hands I'm sure it'd be reported or something. aha

7. You're just getting pedantic here; everything is dangerous if used in the right way. Hell, I can choke someone with a teddy bear, that doesn't mean it's dangerous. my point exactly. my point of the whole post

8. You believe things that happen in movies? It must be true, I saw it on the telly! ;-)

9. Don't know about you, but I don't think you can take syringes on a plane except for medical reasons with a note from a hospital/surgery/g.p.'s clinic. I always could take seringes and ampoules. Always could. Without medical certificate even. Actually I forgot all about them and several of them found in a forgotten corner of my carryon trolley.

10. Not sure, but I think there's a way to differentiate between a bottle of compressed air and a bottle of liquid with a timer and circuits attached to it. compressed air bottles are considered dangerous goods. There does not have to be a timer connected to it.

11. I don't know. me neither. I was pissed off, and she thought I was pissed off at her. And I was not. Really, I wasn't! ;-)

12.Because they all have different opinions on what's acceptable. What's your point? Either we tighten security, or we don't. If so, there should only be one norm. Not a random norm left to personal interpretations, or national interpretations.

13. Which airports? All of the Italian airports I have been to, including Fiumicino (Rome)

14. Don't think you can... Have you been travelling at any legit airports? I tell ya... Happened twice to me: Rome (Fiumicino) and Gran Canaria

15. Because there are a lot of I.D. companies out there and sometimes they have to give you the benefit of the doubt. I really don't want the benefit of the doubt. Security rules should not be left for interpretation...

16. Not all laptop batteries can explode! That's a manufacturing defect and these batteries get recalled the same way that teddy bears with knives hidden inside get recalled. Tests have proven that any damaged battery is a liability.. Saw some awesome videos on YouTube about this subject!

17. Yes. Well better be safe than sorry. Wished once was enough

18. I'm sure they have cameras. I am sure they weren't watching, as I stepped right through. They had security cameras taping the 9/11 hijackers too, by the way

19. Because she has a sense of humour, jackass. name calling voided my will to answer

20. With you at all times inside the airport. I doubt anyone is going to stalk you for that long. think the question was misunderstood. Many people have access to my luggage before I check it in.

21. Crap security. Ah.. my point. PS: Nowhere I know of in West-Europe, you are being checked when leaving the airport, to see if tags match ID!

22. Thieves are a pretty adaptable lot. my point exactly. So are terrorists

23. You shouldn't be able to... My point exactly

24. Different sensitivity settings. My point exactly

25. (a) You're a little motherly, I take it. (b) You're in a country with a shitty justice system? At least in Europe I can still say something, I guess in the US TSA would arrest me for even thinking this way ;-)))

26. What? Don't they check your tickets on board too? Well we got as far as up the stairs, when a surprised flight attendant said "what are you doing here", and then started a whole discussion between her and the bus driver, with us walking around the plane. Talking to the guy refueling.

27. You pay more for more space in the overhead bins. I know, but at check in, they said it was for security reasons I could take only one. In some airports they have automated announcements at departures saying for security reasons only one piece is allowed. So why can they take it, and I can not, mum? ;-)

28. Because you're an asshole who doesn't think that the airport needs to know how much weight the plane is carrying. name calling voided my will to answer. It is a pity, as I had a good answer!

29. Not sure. Why would you want 15 bags? Wouldn't you trip over customs laws? you missed the point

30. Because these people have a lot of people to process, and they're looking for real criminals, not the latest idiot who thinks he's a bigshot for getting through a floppy disk. Well at least the criminals will be grateful if they are lax

31. Because they mostly all have good answers, even if they're not above. thanks at least for the efforts!

You asked 32 questions, mate. You can't even count. So you noticed? ;-)

I like a good discussion, keep it coming, but withhold on name-calling please.

Anonymous,  12 October, 2008 19:16  

I read a few weeks back that the airports did and illegal action by taking the liquids away from passengers. By the way--

How come I can get onboard with all the liquids I want if I have an infant while if I travelled with my 10 year old daughter I would not?

Is one of my children more dear to me than the other so I cant blow up a plane? seriously...

Anonymous,  12 October, 2008 19:33  

duty free on arrival...solves the problem!

Anonymous,  12 October, 2008 20:25  


Let's hope no zealous airport security employees ( hoping to get that promotion) put some white stuff or some waki-tabaki in your luggage just to test how sensitive their security apparatus or tools are. Both the Japanese and the French couldn't recuperate their loot because they forgot which bags were under "test"

Anonymous,  13 October, 2008 01:52  

Don't you know you can get in big trouble for asking such questions? You're supposed to be compliant with all these rules, which exist only for your own good! ;-)

Don't know if you know Flyertalk, but this forum deals precisely with the silliness you describe:

Would you mind if I post a link to your Blog there?

Cheers from Montreal,

Peter 13 October, 2008 06:21  


thanks, I had already crossposted these questions to Flyertalk. Thanks for the tip, though!


Unknown 16 October, 2008 02:01  

Unfortunately the thread seems to have been deleted on FT. Don't know why... strange. If ever you make it back to Montreal, I'll be happy to buy you a beer. Cheers, Alex

Peter 16 October, 2008 05:38  

I will have a look, I posted it on the 'Lounge' in Flyertalk. There was one person complaining these subjects had been talked about before.

That is maybe why it has been deleted.

Anyways.. hope you can keep warm in Montreal! Was there this time of the year, last year... ;-)


Anonymous,  19 October, 2008 20:57  

A search under your handle led me to "Travel Buzz' but when I clicked on said thread , I received " Invalid Thread specified" message. Some Mods must have deleted the thread but usually they will just lock or close it. very strange indeed.

Anonymous,  21 November, 2008 13:13  

I also can not believe the liquid guys were acquitted! Should this mean they should now remove so many of the ridiculous liquid restrictions?

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