Don’t Take Your Swimming Bag With You When Flying!!!

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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!

Bottom line

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?


  1. Capt Hammond says

    Your Dad had the misfortune to be travelling through Manchester Airport. It’s my ‘home’ airport too and the security staff seem to compete with each other to see who can be the most surly and rude. Perhaps their bonus scheme is linked to making the security experience as unpleasant and tedious as possible….

    • Joe Deeney says

      Hi Captain Hammond!

      Haha – I was passing through myself a couple of days ago and was pleasantly surprised with how efficient it was. First time I’ve flown from T1 in a while though, which might be the difference. Smiles were certainly still at a premium though.

  2. Clive says

    Well my best one was taking a gammon joint for a friend in Turkey. My bag got pulled at LHR T5 security and all of a sudden there were numerous people looking at the scan. I asked if there was a problem knowing full well what had probably triggered the secondary examination but got no response just some stark glares. Then along came the head of security to view the findings:

    Sir what is in your bag
    Me: A gammon
    Sir all we can see is a mass along with cables entering the mass
    Me: It’s a gammon
    Sir can we examine your bags contents
    Me: Sure ……………….it’s a gammon

    So I produced the offending item and was let on my way but it did bring a smile to my face.

  3. T D says

    Airport security staff in the UK are, almost without exception, arses. Luton and Stansted get a particular mention here, but the proper airports aren’t much better. No common sense whatsoever, no ability to use the tiniest modicum of discretion, just a shower of humourless jobsworths.

    I very nearly got refused boarding once at Luton for my response to a security staff member who told me my clear plastic bag was the “wrong size of clear plastic bag”. Suffice to say my reply was arguably deserving of chastisement, if altogether justified.

  4. Ben Lloyd says

    I swear that the security staff at Stansted are incentivised to be as slow, unhelpful and incompetent as possible as a ruse to sell more “Fast Track” upgrades. Ironically, Stansted fast track doesn’t tend to be any faster anyway.

    • Joe Deeney says

      Haha, I’m sensing that a competition (or at least anonymous poll) might be required to determine the ‘best’ airport security experience. Oddly enough, the very worst UK arrival I’ve ever had wasn’t off a plane at all, but off a ship in Dover. In comparison to that, most airport-based inconveniences I’ve had have been trivial(ish..).

  5. Richard says

    I feel for you Manchester Airport is the pits. I use T3 and they are just rude and obnoxious. Manchester Airport Group have implemented their own version of the UK Governments rules that are far stricter. I am asthmatic and diabetic and I get questioned every time why I have two blue inhalers with me and they have to go in separate bags. The bags can only be the ones supplied by MAG. The6 often ask for a dose to be puffed to prove they are for asthma. My needles I had too many and they complained. I always have to take off my belt and shoes. I did notice they have removed the “how was the service” tippy thing maybe the red button broke. The terminal is like the place that time forgot. I fly BA Club so this is fast track,

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