Tuesday, October 27, 2009

How Safe Are You: Airport and Plane Security?

I recently had to fly to the UK for business. Here are some observations:

1. On my return flight to Israel, I did "online check-in", which means I printed out my boarding pass before going to London's Heathrow airport. I found it very amusing that the questions asked by security personnel at Israel's Ben-Gurion airport (did you pack the bags yourself, etc) were all "asked" by the web page I used to perform online checking.

I'm sure that terrorists are intimidated into telling the truth for this on-line check-in, and they will always truthfully answer the check-box questions accurately.

2. What I found slightly more distressing is that when you perform on-line check-in at Heathrow airport, and are not carrying any luggage, you are not asked to show your passport at any time. From the time I entered the airport till I was on the plane...in fact, all the way till I got to Israel, the only identification I had to show to anyone, was my self-printed piece of paper boarding pass.

Of course, I can forgive them. While they may not have verified who I actually was, or bothered to check my passport at any time, they did enforce the very strict rule that no more than 300 milliliters of any liquid be in my hand luggage. Why? Because liquids can be dangerous. So are nail clippers...and plastic knives (also forbidden). Needless to say, there was something far more potentially dangerous in my hand luggage, but that went through without a problem.

3. Israel's Ben-Gurion Airport security is something out of science fiction. They profile people, pre-profile people, and have security anywhere and everywhere. Rumor has it that there are over 300 cameras alone monitoring the check-in/departure area. The security people place stickers on your boarding pass and passport that look like this:

Don't even bother trying to figure out what it means -- as every single time I fly out of Israel, they check different boxes for me on the security stickers, and use different names as well that they sign or write on the stickers (even ifs the SAME SECURITY PERSON).

4. You can always spot an Israeli on a plane by the following:

Within 10 milliseconds of touchdown, the Israeli is already opening up the overhead luggage compartment, turning on their cellphone, and preparing for the mad dash off the plane.

They are already talking on their phones while the plane is taxi-ing to the terminal. This particularly annoys the airline staff.

"Sir, you'll have to turn off your cellphone till the plane's doors are open and the engines are turned off."

Why exactly? Will the cellphone cause a accident after the plane has already landed?

Think about this: if cellphones are SO dangerous as they may interfere with a plane when it's flying, why are people allowed to fly with them?!

Nail clippers are dangerous (as well all know), yet cellphones which could cause the plane to explode or crash while flying (after all, that's why we can't use them during flights) -- so why are we allowed to have them in the cabin at all while flying?

I certainly hope Al-Qaida isn't reading this blog -- because they may use this classified information as a threat -- "Fly this plane to Kabul, or I'll turn on my cellphone!"

That's enough travel and security observations for now...as JoeSettler probably has something insightful to post...

Glad to be back home.

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Nachum said...

I thought that United 93 proved that cell phone usage on planes isn't so bad.

JoeSettler said...

I'm just single handedly supporting your blog (or destroying it according to PP).

Benji Lovitt said...

Jameel, I have joked about this a bunch, you are 100% correct. "If El Al doesn't do it, NOBODY SHOULD DO IT!"

Here's what I have to say about American airport security:


tnspr569 said...

In America, you can use your cell phone as soon as the plane touches down, while still taxiing to the gate. It's been that way for a while now. In-flight WiFi is still being deployed, but it's a start.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Benji: Great video clip :-)

Remember, when they ask you if you are carrying any weapons...DONT ask them back, "nuclear or conventional?"

(They dont have a sense of humor...)

Benji Lovitt said...

Ok, that just made me laugh out loud. Did you make that line up? If so, I'm stealing it.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Benji: Courtesy of Robbie Berman and myself :-)

Feel free to use it!

yaak said...

Here's another thing NOT to do at the airport.

Ben said...

The joke goes:

As a flight from Tel Aviv taxis to its gate on Dec 24th, the co-pilot can be heard saying, "...and for those who are still seated, Merry Christmas."

It is SO true.

jumblerant said...

Apparently the behind the scenes checks that ElAl does is world class as they know that they cannot rely on the British to secure anything larger than a tea bag...

Allegedly all bags are checked at least 3 different ways (such as mechanical sniffer, dog sniffer, x-ray).

I have heard that ElAl pre-profile and profile passengers on the flights from London.

Have you heard the rumor that there are armed personnel in all sections of ElAl planes wherever they fly?

Just some stuff I read somewhere on the interwebs...

Search the Muqata


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