Sep282015

Feeling lucky punk? Definitely not in LHR Terminal 4 Security

Quick post as I wait to board Air France London to Paris. London Heathrow LHR Terminal 4 is a trip. Etihad and Qatar fly out of the terminal along with several SkyTeam Alliance airlines. This is a great place for people watching with many cultures mingling together in a cosmopolitan space of Terminal 4.

Sikh turbans, Muslim women gowned with only their eyes showing and sometimes though are even covered in designer sunglasses, Indian sari dress and fashionable along with bohemian western Europeans.

The main story I have to tell is about security. I entered security screening and was given a choice of two lines. Obviously, I picked the wrong line. A tatted up blonde woman running the x-ray machine pushed six roller bags in a row into the additional check line. I was pretty certain I had placed all the toothpaste and deodorant in my checked bag. I had pulled my camera and computer out and set them separately in a tray. So I was kind of surprised to see my carry-on bag as the seventh roller bag in a row to be placed aside for additional hand screening.

Another security agent woman was taking each bag and having the passenger open it and then she went through the contents and pulled out a variety of liquids and gels that were not in a separate plastic bag. She did that for the first bag in line and took a few minutes to swab things for testing and place the gels and cosmetics in a plastic bag.

The second carry-on bag went through the same procedure and the agent pulled out a number of cosmetics and gels and placed them in a plastic bag and went through all the articles in the bag, swabbed stuff and cleared the passenger. That was ten minutes for two bags and mine was the seventh bag in line. By then there were another three carry-on bags behind my bag. Then the blonde agent working the X-Ray machine switched positions with the woman hand inspecting the bags.

Third bag and the same situation of cosmetics in the roller bag that were not in a separate clear plastic bag. And it was not just one or two items, it was closer to ten items. Another five minutes.

By this time there are many of us standing around wondering if they are going to get some other agents to process all these bags. I looked at the other security lines and there was one, maybe two bags pulled out for every five or so going through x-ray.

The blonde tatted agent then reaches the next carry-on. As she pulls out cosmetic bag after cosmetic bag, this female passenger has some 50 or so gels, pastes, liquids in her luggage, none in plastic and some items several hundred milliliters in size. By now we can tell the agent is taking the piss with all of us as people are complaining they need to get to a flight and she spends the next 20 minutes on this woman’s one bag. She tells her she has to fill up one plastic bag she hands her and the rest is to be disposed.

By this time passengers are asking any uniformed person walking by to get more people to process these bags. I am still third in line. A couple of other agents come to the station and blondie tells one of them he can take a bag that is two after mine.

The amazing thing is every bag had cosmetics, pastes and gels. Finally, my bag is pulled out by a man who has come to assist. He reaches around in the bag and asks me if I have coins? “Yes, I have about 60 Euros in coins in my bag.” He replies, “That’s a lot of coins. Your fine. Go on.”

I had been in line 40 minutes.

Next time I’ll pull out my coins and place them in the tray separately.

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

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  1. I have had multiple experiences similar to this in Heathrow. it’s a bit better with T2 now but when I used to have to got through T4 with Continental I was always stopped. My belongings were always compliant but they always found a reason to hand screen. I had about $12 worth of Euros and that flagged me; I had a pack of gum and that flagged me; one time I was told a highlighter in my laptop bag was considered liquid. My last trip through LHR connecting UA to LH was much quicker.

  2. Still unbelievable how many women are totally clueless about the rules, but the UK security folk do take things to the extreme – as anyone who has visited Manchester or Heathrow knows. This same thing has happened when I’ve gone through several times and it is usually people from eastern Europe, the Indan subcontinent, Asia and Africa who have much more lax security in their countries I guess. Ruins everyone’s day but they seem oblivious.

  3. IMHE hand inspection is likely if you have coins in rolls or stacks of plastic cards as both can create a profile of interest.

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