I was traveling for a couple of weeks last month. I spent a lot of time in airports. In each one I had time on my hands. As a result I wrote at least one post in each of the airports, which am posting from time to time. Two more airports to go until I arrive home!
There is extra security at the airport. Actually, the checks start long before you reach the terminal.
I didn’t count the number of checkpoints we slowed for in what should be about a five minute drive between our hotel and the airport. There were at least five where we were just waved through.
That I was told was because we had booked the expensive taxi. I guess terrorists are more frugal. There was still one checkpoint though where everyone had to exit the vehicle and we were patted down by security, who also checked the trunk of the car, presumably looking for stowaways.
At the airport the first security check came as we entered the building. You can’t get to the ticket counter without having your bags scanned. After you get your boarding pass and go through passport control there is another full scan before you can head to your gate.
Security procedures vary from airport to airport. There is an international standard for liquids in your carry-on luggage, a maximum of 100 ml is permissible. At Erbil my 500 ml water bottle went through the scanner with no questions asked. Mind you, the building doesn’t feel air conditioned, so maybe the security people figured we needed the water.
Keeping the bottle with me was deliberate, but last year I arrived at the airport completely forgetting I had water in my carry-on. That was at Sabiha Gökçen Airport, Istanbul’s other airport. I was surprised after going through security to discover that I was carrying water and that my bottle just sailed through.
So I made a game of it. I deliberately left my water bottle in my carry-on for the return flight. No problem. The same thing with a flight from Istanbul to London, this time from Ataturk airport. It was only at Heathrow that security personnel told me I had to surrender it.
Airport security doesn’t make me feel safer, though I realize if there wasn’t any then flying probably wouldn’t be safe.
The standards are too variable. I have been told that they can set the scanners to different levels, but I don’t know if that is true.
What I do know is that invariably when I travel I am on multiple flights and no two airports have the same procedures. Shoes on or off, belt on or off, I don’t really care; I just want to know beforehand what I am supposed to do so I don’t hold up the line.
The extra security at Erbil International makes perfect sense when you remember that this is a country at war. In the southern part of the country yesterday a suicide bomb attack killed 55. A similar attack last month near our hotel killed three people.
It doesn’t feel particularly tense around here on this May morning, but you won’t find me complaining about a few extra security measures. In Erbil it’s not flying that’s dangerous, it is everything else.
Erbil International Airport, May 29, 0230