Airport Security: the Roulette Wheel of Rules

I’m flying out of Heathrow Airport (Terminal 5) this morning on my way to a few meetings in Munich. I just flew out of T5 last month so I didn’t expect much of a problem, but this morning there was a huge queue. Guess what? They changed the security requirements again! Yay!

So now they’ve decided that because domestic and international flights leave out of the same terminal they need to double-check the identity of people flying domestically (don’t ask me why). That means they take photographs of all domestic travellers, and check everybody’s boarding pass to see if they’re domestic. Great.

After getting through that first new queue, I get to security and an even larger queue. Oh look! After months of advertising “leave your laptops in your bags!” (and chewing out anybody who took them out) they now have big signs stating “take your laptop out of your bag.” What happened to all those state-of-the-art scanners they were supposed to have?

Of course, all shoes come off. That’s been consistent for about a year, except when they decide it’s not.

All of this just adds to the fun of airport security. It reminds me of one time I flew out of a US airport on my way to Toronto, and then flew out of the same airport on the same flight three weeks later. The conversation went something like this:

The TSA person scared the crap out of me when he yelled, “STOP RIGHT THERE!! Take off your shoes!”

I was shocked to say the least; I didn’t need to take off my shoes three weeks earlier. “I’m sorry,” I said, “I didn’t realize I needed to take off my shoes.”

“Of course you have to take off your shoes! This is an airport you know.”

Well, as I later learned, when I flew out the first time it was “threat level yellow” and three weeks later it was “threat level orange.” The difference (at security) is that at level orange you need to remove your shoes. Of course, how silly of me.

I guess in the US they at least tell you the threat level (look for it – there will always be a little sign near security stating the threat level). In the UK they just make you guess what the security-regulations-of-the-week will be.