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Airports are fast becoming the bane of my life

UNITED KINGDOM | Saturday, 31 July 2010 | Views [1528] | Comments [3]

In my usual Australian domestic, and now Middle Eastern international flight style, I have become accustomed to arriving at the airport at a reasonable but not particularly early time, waiting in a short queue for any formalities and floating through security with hand luggage that barely gets glanced at. Fast forward to a ridiculously short flight to Edinburgh, of which I only purchased because the trains were overbooked thanks to the volcano, and we find ourselves at the manic chaos that is Gatwick Airport.

I tottered along on the painfully slow District tube line to Victoria station and promptly changed to the Gatwick "Express" to get to the airport. Even with everything arriving on time I was going to be cutting it fine and arriving at the airport just an hour before my departure, possibly even down to the last 45 minutes where check in closes - AND I had a backpack to do something with. My arrival went smoothly enough, I was adept at the shuttle between the South and North terminal and all was well until I walked through the doors into the North terminal. Angry passengers and queues abound with expensive-looking men getting frustrated at hostesses because they can't buy their way out of the queues. After some time I stand somewhere I think I should be, worried about the fact that my queue looks at least ninety minutes long and I'm supposed to be boarding in forty. Oops!

Then a large British man comes bounding past the queues shouting for final passengers for the 12.00 to Edinburgh and I swear I nearly kissed him. I was hurtled past barriers and pushed to a desk where even the operator didn't know why I was there. I checked in again and acquired my boarding pass, but now apparently because I had a backpack instead of a suitcase, I had to take my luggage to a completely different section. After a bit of confusion at the unattended minors desk I offloaded my pack down a dark conveyor belt tunnel and found my way to departures security.

Now, before we start off with British security, let me tell you what I've gotten used to of late. In Dubai, you stroll around empty airports with whatever you want in your bag or on your person. If you beep through the metal detector, they might actually look at you. We watched one day as  Pakistani man made it through one checkpoint with a gallon of fuel before someone actually asked him what it was. Gel and aerosol rules largely do not apply and you would never even consider being searched! Back to the United Kingdom. As soon as I had my boarding pass checked I was asked to look at a camera so they could match my picture to the booking. He explained that this was because as an internal traveller mixing with international passengers, they want to make sure it's me that gets on the plane. I tell him that's interesting and a little exciting and carry on my merry way not expecting what was to come.

I had my lip gloss and hand sanitiser already sealed into their neat little bags. I had my passport and boarding pass in my hand and my netbook already out and ready for their little tray. I'd done this plenty of times, there'd be no problem right? At the last moment I added my belt to the mix and was sure I'd breeze through the metal detector. I got worried when the first guy asked me to take my earrings out. Just how sensitive are these sensors? Right ahead of me another young woman had her hands out to her sides while she was getting patted down by an inspector. Woah.

Of course I beeped through the metal detector. I now figure it must have been the wonderful Thailand Tiffany wedding band and engagement ring currently residing on my finger. Everyone rightly assumed they were real rather than a simple deterrent for drunken hostel boys and any other errant travellers who noticed I was female and travelling on my own. I was asked to step aside and raise my arms. Meanwhile, the smiley x-ray guy over the other side of the machine holds up my liquids bag and says, "I'm just going to run this through the trace detector ok?" Yeah, because I totally have a choice. All I can think about is the fact that there's about $4,000 worth of electronic devices and my passport sitting in my backpack that I can no longer see and my flight is supposed to board in twenty minutes.

"I'm just going to put my hands inside your waistband now." Uh huh. I'm also very aware I don't have a choice in that or the fact you were just groping around my bra. Smiley x-ray man gives me a thumbs up for my liquids because he now knows I've not been playing with explosives of late, and touchy-feely lady is making her way down my inseam. Seriously, people pay good money to be touched like this by a woman and all I have to do is go through British airport security! I decide this saga must be karma for my lazy start to the morning, leisurely breakfast and careful eye make-up application in order to convince someone in Scotland to give me a Scottich passport stamp. It might also be torture for jumping the baggage check queue. I remove my shoes and give them up to smiley x-ray man who has now come to the point of assuming anything rogue that comes down the conveyor belt must be mine. I suppose he improved the overall situation as it was nice to see someone not looking so dire and thinking I was up to something more than just wearing terribly fake jewellery.

Alas, touchy-feely lady finally decided I was not carrying anything illegal and I was given the all clear to put my clothes back on and reassemble the contents of my bag. My watch broke on my second day in London so I had no idea of the time, all I knew was that I was going to need to move it and shake it to get to my gate. Luckily I remembered the gate number from my boarding pass and I raced around following the appropriate signs. I remembered a travel blog I'd read recently about checking all the departure boards on your way to your gate as things change at such short notice. I stopped short, scanned to find my flight and ... delayed to 1.00pm. Fark me. Following said travel blog's advice, I wandered through to the gate, chatted to the lady there and checked it was ok to go grab a coffee. I've had a bite to eat, a caffeine injection and have since watched my flight be delayed twice more. I still don't have a new gate and there's an awful lot of duty free shopping available around here....



Heh - another good story! I've heard security overseas is pretty ridiculous. Someone told me (can't remember who it was) that a lot of the flight delays in the UK are caused because the flight crew get stuck in security checks! Stories like this don't surprise me at all!

  Leo DiCaprio Aug 1, 2010 3:56 PM


Awesome account of your trip. Keep us in touch. Know how you feel when you travel in UK - hope you get to the Tower of London - Di's clothes and jewellery are fantastic. Lots of love from us.

  Jackie and Bruce Davies Aug 1, 2010 4:48 PM


I think you did quite well, you should have been in America in 2006 some 5 years after 911, different, reallly different, but certainly justified......all part of the fun of travelling, keep safe my sweetheart !.....

  Debra Williams Aug 2, 2010 7:50 AM

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