Tag Archives: airlines

Airport Security: A Make-Believe Tale

“I’m sorry, Ma’am, but you’re going to have to get rid of the water bottle.”

“What? Why? I just bought it at the airport kiosk. They said it would be okay.”

“Nevertheless…” The guard checks her watch. “Regulations changed, again, ten minutes ago. No water.”

“But it’s a long flight.”

“You can buy some water on the plane. Next.”

The guard looks at the man’s passport and runs it through a computer. She pulls out plastic tie downs. “Put your hands behind your back.”

The man does. “But why?”

The guard ties his hands together. “It says you have a black belt in Judo. We can’t be too careful. You’ll have to ride the flight like this.”

“But–”

“Take it or leave it. We could just cut your hands off.” The man swallows and walks through, trying to grab his shoes and briefcase best he can. “Next.”

The guard holds up her hand. “I’m sorry, Ma’am, but your baby must go through alone.”

“But he’s three months old. He can’t walk or even crawl.”

“Sorry, regulations.”

“How do you suggest he’s going to move forward?”

“Just put him in one of these bins and send him along the conveyor belt. The process is painless.”

The baby screams as it disappears into the dark bowels fo the X-ray machine. The mother looks distressed and tries to go through the detector. It whoops.

“You’ll have to go through again and remove your shoes.” The woman does.

“Oh and no liquids. You’ll have to get rid of that.” The guard points to the woman’s chest.

“What?”

“No liquids are allowed on board.”

“Are you talking about my breasts?”

“You’re breastfeeding. No liquids.”

“You want me to get rid of my breast milk?” People are beginning to murmur.

“We can’t be too careful. You can go behind that screen and collect your baby once you’re through.” The baby is screaming, lying in a bin by the guards scanning laptops. One runs his explosives detector over the distressed baby as the woman runs behind the screen. The guard’s earphone beeps. She listens and tells the rest of the guards something. They bring out a box of latex gloves.

The next man has already removed his shoes, watch and ring and steps through. The guard motions him back. “Please remove your tie, belt and socks.”

“My tie and socks? Why?”

“New, updated regulations. Oh and roll your pants up above the knees.”

The man does so and steps through. The guards gets out a magnifying glass and inspects his feet, running the explosives detector up and down his legs. “You should trim your nails. I just have to take a sample from…under…here.”

“Ow!” The man yells and hops up and down holding his toe as the guard takes the gouged out bit of flesh from under his toe nail and drops it in an analyser.

“Okay, open your mouth.”

“Open my wha–”

The guards sticks a tongue depressor in the man’s mouth, shines a light around and swabs the teeth.

“What the fu–”

“Regulations.”

“Look, how long is this going to take? I’m going to miss my flight.”

“About another twenty minutes to analyse these swabs.”

“But I’ll miss my flight!”

“It’s for everyone’s safety, sir. Why are you getting so upset? Do you have something to hide? You should have come four hours before your flight.”

“Four hours!”

“Now please go behind this screen and drop your pants.” Another guard snaps on fresh gloves and grabs the lube.

“What! I’m not carrying anything! You’re metal detector hasn’t beeped once.”

“Nevertheless, we must check everyone now. No liquids, shoes off, pants rolled up, teeth examine and all cavities checked.”

“But why?”

“Someone tried to smuggle in a bomb in their anus. We can’t be too careful.”

“Forget it. I’m not flying.”

“You’ll still have to go through the search.”

Six months later someone swallows a bomb and tries to smuggle it on board.

The guard stops the first person and hands her a hospital gown. “You’ll need to change into this prior to surgery.”

“Surgery? Are you crazy? I’m trying to get on a flight.”

“Regulations. We must inspect everyone before they get on. You should be ready to fly in a day or two…”

Six months later fifteen airlines go out of business and airport kiosks close down. US congress listens to concerns but thinks security still isn’t tight enough. Welcome to the brave new world of enhanced airport security. Of course, we’ll all feel far more protected now.

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Filed under Culture, flying, humor, life, people, security, travel

Glasgow and the End of the Journey

Today is Canada Day and I’m off travelling out of town. So here is the last of my journey to Ireland and Scotland from Fall 2007.

Our last day in Glasgow started with the museum and then we went off to St. Mungo’s religious museum. Housed in the oldest standing building in Glasgow, it was a fairly bland exhibition and the building wasn’t that interesting. So we walked up the street and over to the Glasgow Cathedral, but it was late in the day and it turned out it closed at 4:00. The guy was really just locking up so he said you have five minutes.

I zoomed around taking pictures, without actually really looking at the place. The Cathedral is supposed to be one of the few gothic cathedrals in Scotland, especially one that is whole and still used. It was built in 1471 and really is a fine example of gothic architecture. I wished I’d had more time to actually look.

Ireland 2007–Glasgow

After that we tried to find our way back to Will and Erin’s. Unfortunately I’d forgotten their phone number. We also got lost because a helpful lady had told us what bus to catch back but it turned out there were two buses with the same name and a different ending, thus splitting and going varying routes. Which meant backtracking.

My sister was done. We had to walk about three blocks to catch another bus, after doing a partial return route. She thought we’d been walking for hours when it was less than ten minutes. 🙂 A very drunk Scotsman chatted with us (we had to catch a bus outside a pub, of course) and it turned out it was the other bus stop across the street from the pub. So he was a very drunk, yet helpful Scotsman.

So we finally made it back, with Will and Erin wondering what had happened to us. The next morning we flew out on Air Transat but not without issues. My sister had called them several times before she’d left and confirmed how many bags she could take on the plane, and on carry-on. She confirmed with the person on the phone and asked about leaving from Scotland. He confirmed with his supervisor that yes, she could take a bag and her camera bag as well.

Well, it turns out they have their own rules. My sister ended up paying overweight baggage because of it and was rightfully furious because she had to pack one bag into everything else. My recommendations: don’t fly Air Transat if you’re flying more than two hours. The seats are small even for someone 5’4″. If you need a special diet, they’ll lose it or muck it up badly. And someone travelling with you will probably get a special diet they didn’t order, as I did. They’ll tell you one thing and do another and not be the least helpful or apologetic for it. The seat selection (if you want to sit with the person you’re flying with) cost extra so that super cheap flight turns out not that cheap in the end.

Europe and Great Britain especially have tighter baggage allowances and the airline won’t always know what it is or get the info confused. The attendants on Air Transat were very nice and helpful but everything else convinced me I won’t be flying with them again.

At least the return trip was more pleasant. The plane wasn’t completely full so I went and chatted with this Scotsman, Ian MacIntosh who lived in Calgary. That way, my sister and I both had extra room.

Over all, Ireland was a great trip. The trip was from Sept. 26-Oct. 16. I want to go back and explore more of western Ireland and some of the south. I think I’d fly into Wales and then from Wales to the west of Ireland. Of course I’ll have to buy a camera again, but that’s a tale for tomorrow…

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Airport Security=Paranoia Keeps Them in Line

In the past year, I’ve flown to Ireland and to Kansas. Flying to the US took far more rigmarole, extra gates and scrutiny of bags and clothing than going through Scotland and on to Ireland.

For US flights, you have to cart your luggage along, to then eventually toss it on a conveyor belt. Why? God only knows. To humiliate I guess. And Canada and the US share a border, but you never know what we might infest the US with either: politeness?

As everyone who has flown since 9/11 knows, you must take off your shoes when you’re going through, because some idiot decided to try and bomb with his shoe. Even if you’re wearing flip flops, some airports are supper anally retentive on all shoes. And of course, you can’t take a sharp metal object: no knives and no metal utensils on the plane.

Then there were the guys trying to splash about some liquids to make bombs. Now you have to put everything in a separate bag, and have no more than a few ounces of any particular liquid. And even if you use the airport approved bag, you may still not be able to carry it on the plane as my sister found out, because the rules change from airport to airport.

So, what’s next? Someone who puts some form of bomb material into a tube of lipstick, a suppository or a fake tooth? We have to take off all metal bits going through a metal detector but as I found, a bra can now set off the super sensitized detectors. Watch out, everyone who has piercings. Soon you may have to take every piece out. There has already been one case of overzealous customs guards making a woman take out her nipple piercings.

How ridiculous and useful is this? Well sure they scan for certain chemicals on laptops, but what about PDAs and phones? If someone wanted to kill or hold someone hostage on a plane, there are a million ways. What about someone who holds a black belt? They can kill someone with their hands. “Excuse me, sir. We’re going to need you to check your hands.”

“I can’t check my hands. They’re part of me.” “Well then we’ll have to tie them behind your back.” “But what if I have to go?” “The attendant will assist you.” “What! One person can’t fit in those bathrooms, let alone two!” “We’ll give you a cup, no charge.”

Oh and hmmm, let’s see. Many of us wear shoes with laces, or belts. They all can be used to tie or strangle someone. “I”m sorry, ma’am, you’re going to have to check those laces. Oh and the strap to your shoulder bag. You’re not wearing thongs, are you?” Remember, just after 9/11 when they were taking people’s tweezers and knitting needles? They must have been afraid of bad eyebrow pluckings.

Be prepared to arrive a day earlier than your flight, where you will strip down and be given orange scrubs and cloth booties to go through on the flight. Your checked clothing will be returned to you on the other side. Oh and bring lube, but in less than 2 ounces, for your cavity search. You don’t mind a probe do you?

All this supposed airport security is really one giant smoke and mirrors game. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain because he’s not doing anything. The attitude of the US, which Canada and other nations have followed is to fake us out with this “great” measure being taken to “keep us safe.” Really. Yes, safe. Don’t you feel it? I don’t. I keep thinking that mass stupidity and paranoia is all that I’m seeing. I think this sentiment was best echoed by other Americans when we were in the line-up to get to our planes. All I heard them say was, “This is ridiculous. What a farce.”

Yep but if those governments think we think we’re being protected, well then, spending money on half-assed measures always works better.

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Not Quite Kansas: Cattle Call

Last year I flew to Ireland and because of my stupidity in reading the time of departure I actually whisked through the airport in minutes. But basically, in either direction, it was stop at the ticketing counter, check baggage and get boarding pass, go through electronic scans and then give your pass to the airline attendant. It was relatively quick on either side of the boarding or disembarking.

Today, as I tried to board my Delta Airlines flight to Kansas via Salt Lake City, there were as many checkpoints as getting in Nazi occupied territory. I arrived about 11:10 am for my flight at 12:51 and lined up in front of Delta. There were less than a dozen people with three ticket counters open. It took about twenty minutes to get through. Oh and a US customs declaration card must be filled out before you go to the ticket counter. On some flights you do it on the flight to give to customs on the other side.

Ahah! But here we have customs on Canadian soil. So I checked my bag but had to keep it with me. Then I was shunted through the duty free shop along a corridor where they ask if you have your card filled out. Through another corridor there are lines for greeting the customs agents who stamp the declaration form, look at my passport and ask how long I’ll be in Kansas and whether it’s business or a pleasure. But they don’t take the card.

Then I go along another corridor, with my luggage (You think I got to check it yet?) where I hand the card to another customs agent standing before the big cattle clash. Now there are big glass doors, perpetually open and what looks like it’s where I would get screened as well as my carry-on. But not yet. Everyone tried to get in nice lines but we were told to bunch up in a large mass so that we could then funnel back down to a line to drop off any liquids bigger than a dormouse. Then we trundled our luggage over to an area on the right and flopped it on the conveyor belt.

Then we squish together again into a large mob moving to the left, and in the middle of this the guy with all the luggage carts wants to get through, but only whispers his request. One woman chose that moment to bend over and open up her carry-on, effectively blocking everything. Then we bundled up again like a passive Canadian gang and funneled into a thin line to go between the red ribboned rows. These rows first took us all the way back to those glass doors then changed to go left to right and zig us and zag us up toward the screening machines.

It’s interesting to note that while in that long sinuous line you can look down on baggage carousels with luggage arriving from different areas. To my left was one from Tokyo; the other was from somewhere in Canada. The baggage on the Canadian carousel was tossed willy nilly onto the conveyor belts, upside down, sideways, at jaunty angles. The baggage from the Japanese carousel was lined up neatly, each parallel to the other, on the long side, handles sticking up. Every single one.

As I neared the front of the line, somehow managing to suppress the urge to bleat, another customs agent pink markered my boarding pass and then I branched off to a particular screening lines. Where of course one has to take off shoes, disembowel bags or purses of little clear bags with liquids in them, take off chains, coins, jewelry, watches, false teeth, limbs and eyes, remove fillings, pop out brains, splay laptops and wander through.

The corridor for the E gates is long, it goes down a flight of steps where the escalator has a sign saying it goes fast but it would take you five times as long to get down than the steps. Then there is a short, fastish moving flat escalator. Then there are steps and escalator going up, which disgorged me into the waiting area, where I find…my plane is late because of headwinds. I wonder how the connecting flight will go.

And the connecting flight went…without me. And many other people. Salt Lake City is Delta’s hub after all, so EVERY flight goes through here. But guess what? Their last flights out are all around 5:00. Whoops. I arrived and got to the gate but they wouldn’t let us board, mostly because I would have had to sit on someone’ s lap. They do give away the seats after a certain time. But the guys there said, oh the planes left late for Vancouver because of maintenance problems. Hmm… Headwinds or maintenance problems or both?

Anyways, I get to spend a night here. I had to get them to dig my luggage out of limbo and I nearly said, Oh you guys should throw in a bottle of booze when flights are delayed, but then I remembered I was in Mormon country. I just had to kinda laugh through all of this. There were a lot of irate people around me but what are you going to do? Me, I’m going to go use that whopping $7 food voucher that Delta gave me and find something to eat here at the Airport Hilton (woooo). And then I’ll probably drink too.

Connecting flight (hopefully) tomorrow at 8:40 and Kansas at noon.

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