It’s become an on-going joke with my work colleagues that I have issues with security at airports. And no one airport has been as bad as Manchester.
I’m just back from a family holiday in Germany and we flew out from Manchester and, let’s say, they really excelled themselves this time.
Usually, it’s the full-body scanners that are the problem – at Manchester it will often identify a part of my body (it’s been various parts of my leg as well as my stomach) that needs checking, which requires me to step to one aside and be manually scanned. The thing is, other airports use the same scanners and I’ve not *once* had the problem anywhere other than Manchester.
As I often travel with a lot of tech items, I’ve learnt the best way to put these through the bag scanners to ensure they don’t get stopped – Heathrow airport security agents were kind of enough to even give me some useful tips on this recently.
So, it was a surprise to me last Sunday to have my bag contents be the issue. I wasn’t carry much tech and everything went into 2 boxes – my backpack in one and various electric item in the other. Both boxes were rejected (it seemed that as many boxes were being rejected as were being accepted, which really should alert someone that there’s an issue somewhere). 10 minutes later, they got around to looking at one of them, and it was the one with the contents of my bag in. In my bag of assorted cables and gadgets, I had a screwdriver, something not permitted in hand luggage (although, oddly, I’d flown with a number of times before without issue. I’d looked up the rules before first packing it and through it was allowed due to its length, but I must have mis-read that – screwdrivers are clearly not allowed in hand-luggage).
That then needs re-scanning and so more waiting. Now I have a box containing stuff that goes in my bag but no bag. Surely, that security agent will now look at my bag? Nope, he moves onto other people’s boxes, making me return to the back of a slow queue until they get around to my bag in order.
10 further minutes later and they get around to my bag. And… I had an empty drinks bottle in it. Yes, that’s right. An empty, reusable bottle was the problem. I was told they should always be taken out. Really? Over the last 2.5 years I’ve made dozens of flights and have always had an empty bottle (to be refilled once I get through security) in my bag, with no-one ever raising this before. I should add that my eldest daughter also had an empty bottle in her bag and that went through without issue.
Now, the screwdriver was a genuine mistake and I have no qualms about them calling that out. My issue here were the delays (it took me half an hour to get through all of this, on time of the initial queueing to get through security – they’d closed down one of their security check-ins and was funneling everyone through the other, creating long delays. In comparison, upon returning home, security at Zurich took just 3 minutes) and the general inconsistency of the Manchester airport staff and equipment. Why am I constantly stopped for random parts of my body? Why was I stopped this time for an empty bottle that I always carry?
I’d love to say I know why but the staff are equally grumpy and unhelpful, so it’s not as if I’m able to learn from this (other than not to carry screwdrivers).
As a result of all of this, it was a deeply unpleasant experience which really set the holiday off to a bad start – Manchester airport security really needs to do better.