01/28/2011

Airport security: laugh or cry?

81461742_Toy_soldie_106720c.jpgAt Gatwick airport, London, a toy soldier had to be disarmed in order to fly to Canada, yet last year someone managed repeatedly to convince security officials in the USA that his real guns were only toys. Do you laugh or cry?


English newespapers today, 29 January, report how a lady who bought a model toy soldier as a present for her husband was forced by airport security at Gatwick to snap off the barrel of the plastic rifle before she could take the toy soldier onto the flight for Canada. She said that they refused to show any common sense or flexibility, but merely said that the rules were the rules.

Earlier in the week a different story in the newspapers reported how a US arms salesman repeatedly brought into Britain real guns. When asked, he convinced security staff that they were "engineering samples" and were fake. Some of his guns were said to have later been used in criminal activities in Britain.

Does the above make you want to laugh or cry. To me, it just proves that airport security is no real defence if people want to get weapons on board an aircraft, but is just a plain nuisance to ordinary people. The Gatwick incident makes me suspect that security people have to meet a quota so that they can tick a box on a work sheet: I already wrote a blog on this subject.

Is Geneva any better? One story, for which I know the exact details, tends to suggest that flexibility and common sense has sometimes been lacking there also.

It started when two table tennis players went back to London on a Sunday back in late 2008, carrying with them presents for their families: chocolate Marmites which many people like to buy to celebrate the Escalade at the start of December. When I contacted one of them in early 2009 he told me that airport security had confiscated them because of them containing little "petards", like those we get in Christmas crackers.

Being unhappy about this poor image of Geneva, I wrote to the airport to complain. In reply, I got an email containing the following statement

We are quite surprised to read your comments, as our security staff unpacks every single Marmite to take away the firecrackers in order to give the Marmite back to its owner, and not confiscating it.

If those two marmites were inpounded, please advise when and prior which flight as it does not correspond to what should have been done.

We do confirm that all items that passenger leave with us in order to board their flights, are either kept until the passenger returns, or destroyed (LAGS and weapons).

Each of the two players stated that they were never offered any such help, but just were told that the marmites were being impounded. Of course, I wrote back to say so. After receiving no response I then wrote again and stated that one of the players, who happened to be the coach of the English ladies table tennis team, would shortly be passing through Geneva with the team, in order to play a match against France in St Julien en Genevois. I suggested that the airport could perhaps greet them with chocolate Easter rabbits, and was told by the airport person that he would see what he could do.

Well, they came, played, saw a bit of Geneva and went back without ever having received anything. On my complaining about this, I got the reply that

J ai demandé à ce que nous les accueillions avec des lapins de Pâques mais je n ai pas eu de retour.

My subsequent enquiries received no response, so I gave up in disgust.

How many times have I noticed that when answering complaints, top managers tell me what ought to have happened (as if it did happen!) rather than checking to find the real truth?

I wonder how and by who they were "destroyed"!

 

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