Thursday, 27 March 2014

Plastic bags at airport security

I recently completed a business trip to Israel. I travelled from Dublin to Tel Aviv and back via Luton. The budget airline combination of Ryanair and Easyjet is one of the most effective ways of travelling from Ireland to Israel and certainly the cheapest.
    My trip did raise questions about airport security. Which of the three airports had the tightest security? Which of the three airports did not ask me to take my small quantities of toiletries out of my suitcase and separately display them?
    If you guessed Tel Aviv had the tightest security you would be right. My fellow passengers in the taxi  from Beersheva and I were quizzed by security at the airport perimeter for many minutes until security was satisfied. Upon arriving at the terminal I was again quizzed by a pleasant young lady about the contents of my bag. All checked luggage was put them through a scanner for inspection before the owners proceeded to check in. There was a lot of technical equipment for explosives detection.
    I then proceeded to boarding card check, passport control and the usual hand baggage screening and walk through a metal detector. Which brings me back the second question. Which airport did not ask me to present my toiletries in a little plastic bag – Security conscious Tel Aviv, Dublin or budget airline Luton? Answer is again Tel Aviv. I did not even have to take off my belt as requested to at Luton and Dublin.
    So why do these airports ask us to go through these inconvenient rituals? If there were a security benefit to separate display of liquids and removal of belt Tel Aviv would surely do it? I can understand the 100 ml limit on liquid sizes and the overall 1 litre bag, but what benefit is it to ask us to put these items in a separate plastic bag outside of our hand luggage? I can’t think of one. Or why take off a belt? What dangerous item can be concealed under a belt that will not set off the metal detector we walk through anyway? Do these rituals provide any useful security benefit?
    Perhaps Tel Aviv security is smarter because it is worried about real threats. Security concentrates on passenger screening. This provides much more benefit that inconveniencing everyone. In Dublin security had the added threat that if you failed to take the liquids out of your bag they would throw them away. Luton just delayed me by taking bag of toiletries out and sending it and bag through again and telling me it would be quicker if I took it out in the first place- an inconvenience but not as bad as Dublin’s threat.
    People are security conscious and comply with willingly with sensible preventative measures. However, it is difficult to see the security benefit of taking out the bag. I remember Dublin was not as strict on this a year or two ago. If Tel Aviv can dispense with this security procedure surely Dublin and Luton can?

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