Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Home Sweet Home - Back in the US of A!

Today, I made it back from my trip to Ireland. To catch you up, the trip from LHR to SNN went off without a hitch and no observed differences in security.

However, the return was quite different. Checking in at SNN and the flight to LHR wasn't a big deal (other than checking a bag, which I usually don't do).

But when I got to LHR things went downhill quickly.

First off, I somehow missed the signs for flight connections and ended up coming out of security -- I think they've changed the path since the last time I was there. Once outside in Terminal 1, I had to walk through the seemingly miles of tunnels to Terminal 3 and then come in like I was originating in LHR.

Coming into Terminal 3, there are people stationed at *every* entrance and you have to walk outside to the entrance that is closest to the check-in area for your airline (I ended up walking outside all the way to area G for United -- wasn't that bad since the weather was nice).

After checking in, went to the FastTrack security entrance for premium passengers and there was a relatively long line there (usually thee is no line) and a much longer line at the regular security entrance. While waiting in line there were several people walking up/down asking about liquids/gels and they were aggressively enforcing the baggage size limit (my Targus computer backpack almost didn't make it -- I had to unload and re-arrange a bunch of stuff to get it to fit the required depth (and this with a standard computer backpack case -- the 6 inch depth restriction is very tight for many laptop bags)).

I was able to bring in all of the typical electronics without a problem: Noise canceling headphones, MP3 player, Portable hard drive, airplane power supply, laptop, mouse, etc., etc.)

The rest was pretty much typical security stuff -- take off your shoes & belt, take laptop out of bag, feed all through xray system. I was not selected for a hand pat-down, not sure what the criteria was, but it seemed to be selectively done and not necessarily associated with someone triggering the metal detector alarm.

Once we go to the gate, there was another security line and again people were selected for a hand-search of their hand baggage.

At both the outside security and the gate security, I declared that I had some prescription ointment (a little less than 2 ounces) and they let me through without a problem.

One final note, when the flight arrived in the US, we had to disembark out the back of the airplane onto Dulles's famous mobile lounges which were staffed with 2 immigration officials (in addition to the driver) to ensure we didn't sneak away. One of them mentioned that the plane is searched after we disembark and before the airline personnel are allowed onboard.

I wonder how long this extra security will continue -- they certainly are spending gobs of money on all this manpower, especially in LHR.

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Robin Wilton said...

Thanks Conor - that's useful data. It sounds like most of the really inconvenient restrictions have been lifted, and the remaining hassle is predominantly around time/queueing.

You're right that they have to throw manpower at the problem at Heathrow... largely because the site is so congested that there's no spare space to accommodate any additional 'security check areas'.

Conor P. Cahill said...

Yeah... Just beware of the 6 inch restriction on depth of your case.. it is much smaller than you think when you have a laptop.