Thursday, January 17, 2008

Carry On Baggage

In a farce worthy of the 70's comedy series of the same name, the Government has revised the rules relating to carry-on baggage. The one-bag limit has been lifted at some airports, but not all. 19 airports have satisfied the Department for Transport that they can cope with relaxed restrictions, including (believe it or not given that the baggage competence there is among the worst in the known world) Heathrow. However Gatwick is among the airports which have not been approved. Along the same cock-eyed lines north of the border Aberdeen and Inverness have relaxed the rules, but not Glasgow or Edinburgh. Same in the midlands - more than one bag is OK at Manchester but not at Leeds Bradford.

Just to really complicate matters airlines which operate from more than one airport will have to enforce different rules according to location, and some airlines are opting to have different rules again. For example Ryanair will keep its one bag limit at Stanstead. The situation is the result of pressure being put on the Government to ease regulations relating to hand baggage on the grounds of the security threat not being great enough to justify the inconvenience to passengers. Rather than wait for every airport to be ready to handle the extra security burden Ministers have elected to bring in the change piecemeal, hence the confusion. As ever, there is serious tension between the need for security and the demands of impatient passengers; commercial considerations usually win.

The travelling public just isn't prepared to put up with the hassle that goes with real security. About 20 years ago the FAA were reviewing flight security and asked the Israeli airport security service for some help. Remember, to fly El Al you need to check in your hold baggage 24 hours in advance so that it can go through a depressurisation chamber (to trigger any altitude detonated bombs) and when arriving for your flight will go through hours of checks including a rigorous search and interview process which often includes members of the same group being separately cross examined about what they had been doing in Israel. The Isaeli's said words to the effect of "Sure, we could make you terrorism proof, but your airlines and passengers would never stand for the inconvenience." How right they were.

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