I guess that many of you who visit this website can tell many tales about your airport experiences. It is always an interesting experience, none more so for the unfortunate passengers of the T5 fiasco! However, have you ever stopped to look at the level and type of security that is now evident at British Airports?
I recently went to a British Airport to see off a family member. It wasn't a particularly busy day, so I stood with them as they entered the security checks area, and started to wave them good-bye as they passed the first hurdle! At this point I was suddenly approached by a security guard, waving his arms around, telling me I wasn't allowed to stand there (for those reading this, this was on the public walk-through, outside the secure area, with very few people about). I naturally moved on, with my family member wondering what was going on. Less than 100 metres further on, was the main departure gate, with many more people using its entrance, with relatives bidding their farewells to their loved ones, and no security on the public walkway!
I then started to look around and realised, that the airport was almost like a fortress, with concrete blocks (see this news item from Sky News on the Glasgow airport fire bombing), police with machine guns, and police vehicles were very evident. When I returned to the car park I noticed that not only had I been photographed on the way in, but the vehicle I was driving was also photographed on the way in and out! Funny, I don't seem to recall reading a notice telling me that I would be photographed, or that I had given my permission. In fact, I would like to know what they do with these photographs.
There will be those who will say, 'it's all in your best interests', 'we have to defend against terror' etc etc. They will surely point to the present trial involving the alleged bombers, as evidence of the danger that lurks beneath. Reference to past terror trials and convictions may also prove their point that we should be ever more vigilent. However, I have to ask the question, how did we manage when the IRA were at the height of their terror powers? Whilst security was always an issue, I don't recall the same draconian results we experience today. When you consider the threat to perimeter fencing, is the cosmetic emphasis at the entrance to an airport the right strategy?
We should also ask the question, just how effective are the restrictions on what you can carry on board? There has been recent debate on this issue, with Channel 4 and the Evening Standard , claiming that the bringing on board of liquids in smaller quantities, does not reduce the capability of any budding terrorist to wreak havoc. It is interesting to note the contents of most people's freezer bags, usually hold small personal items such as roll-on deodorant, perfume, toothpaste etc. The Andrew Gilligan story however, presents a scenario where it is possible to bring 'suspect' items on board, under the 'protection' of the present requirements.
If you have any doubt that this is possible, consider this! I have recently spoken to someone who flew from one part of the UK to another. Within their hand baggage, they had an A4 see-through pocket sleeve. Within that sleeve they had 9 hotel shower gels in see-through bottles. Each bottle contained 30ml of liquid. In total they had 270ml of liquid. How did the security deal with this? Well they didn't open the bottles, they didn't question their contents, they passed them through the X-Ray machine, presumably they were looking for the words 'explosive' or 'bomb'? Do you now feel safer?
Is it me, or do you think we have got our priorities wrong?