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Today I thought I’d share a short ‘guest post’ from my esteemed father, following a rather unfortunate incident he encountered while trying to pass security for a recent flight. I’ve had my own fair share of peculiar security situations over the years, but this one was entirely new to me:
The Place: Terminal 2, Manchester Airport
The Time: 08.30 hours
The Flight: Singapore Airlines, Business Class to Houston, 10.40 hours
Flying Singapore Airlines Business Class has long been a little travel dream of mine, so it was with a metaphorical spring in my step (I have a bad back and am somewhat lacking in actual springiness these days!), that I strode towards Fast Track security, hand-in-hand with my wife. The sun was shining, the birds were (probably) singing, the people at security were smiling…
In retrospect, smiling security officers really should have been more than sufficient warning that today was too good to be true and that something was about to go wrong. Having already checked in our suitcases, I was only carrying a small rucksack (just containing medication and a book), which I placed in the x-ray machine. After passing through the body scanner, I couldn’t spot my bag on the other side for a few moments, until I noticed it was being held hostage by three security guards, waving electronic wands and taking swab samples. They were no longer smiling.
Not to worry, I thought. Presumably just a random check and we still had 90 mins until take off. I enquired if there was a problem and was told it should all be sorted in a few minutes.
More than a few minutes passed.
“Just got to do one more check and then print out the findings”
“Oh, uh, why? ” I asked innocently.
“Well it’s now a Level 2 check because of the traces of banned substance found on your bag and you will have to be searched and answer a questionnaire”
What?! Banned substance?!!! Oh dear. I realised that our planned breakfast in the Lounge might be sadly curtailed to half a slice of toast, if that.
After an extremely thorough search of my TOES, heels and inside my trouser waist, I said in passing that I usually only used the bag for swimming.
“Ah, that’ll be it then – it’s quite a common security problem” (really?). “You’ll be on your way in a jiffy”, the (now smiling once again) senior officer said. “Just got to get another printer as this one doesn’t seem to be working and wait for final clearance from the Manager of Airport Security”
Predictably, it turned out that “a jiffy” was a rather optimistic timeframe. Even the half slice of toast in the Lounge was a distant hope by this point. So much for Fast-Track.
For a bit of extra spice, I’d also been selected for an (random, non-bag-related) enhanced security check before boarding too, which involved standing in isolation for 30 minutes at the bottom of some particularly ugly concrete steps, before another search and some more questions. I was eventually instructed to board – separately from my wife though, which wasn’t quite how I’d envisioned things.
I am, however, pleased to report that two glasses of chilled Champagne later, I felt restored enough to peruse the menu and film options! Phew!
P.S. I vowed to ditch the bag before our onward flight from Houston, not wishing to attract similar attention in the US, where security might not be quite so understanding!
So there you have it – if you want to avoid potential delays at security, don’t take your swimming bag to the airport!
I should point out that my dad is a very frequent swimmer and has probably used the same bag for over a decade, which might help explain the situation. If we have any chemists (or airport security!) amongst the readers, do the chemicals commonly used in swimming pools break down into something more suspicious after a while maybe?
What’s your strangest/worst airport security mishap?