Bombs away! How to get through airport security smoothly

2017-09-21 20:15 - Selene Brophy
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Cape Town - Travel is fun. Getting through airport security, not so much.

But there are some vital things to keep in mind to ensure you make it to the air side of the airport and on to your dream escape.

First-time travellers listen up. Don’t do what two South African travellers recently did at OR Tambo International in Johannesburg this week.

Zip-it and never say the word bomb!

Two separate incidents, two separate passengers - both making threats and seeing the full might of SA’s Civil Aviation law as they were arrested on the spot. While the exact circumstances have not be revealed, Acsa spokesperson for OR Tambo International Airport Leigh Gunkel-Keuler says, “The airport follows a zero-tolerance approach to bomb threats, irrespective of the circumstances.”

SEE: Two SA passengers held at OR Tambo due to bomb threats

“We are a National Key Point and adhere to global standards of airport security. There is simply no rationalisation or excuse for making bomb threats. The intentions or state of mind of those making the threats make no difference from a security point of view as the safety of passengers remains our number one priority.”

These two individuals could be facing a fine or a 30 year imprisonment sentence as the Civil Aviation Act states that anyone who "Communicates information which he or she knows to be false, thereby endangering the safety of an aircraft in service, is guilty of an offence".

Domestic airlines are especially clear about it in their conditions of carriage. According to Comair's kulula, bomb threats happen far too frequently.  

Kulula check in: 'Do you have any sharp objects in your possession?' 
Passenger: 'No, just a bomb.'

This was an actual exchange between a staff member and a passenger at the kulula check-in counter at George airport in March, the airline’s “fourth bomb threat made at the airport this year”, according to its website.

“While we at kulula love to make our fans smile, bomb threats are no laughing matter. The customer who made the comment was immediately isolated, questioned and sent to court the same day, and his bags thoroughly checked. Because we're super-concerned about your safety, we take false bomb threats very seriously. So statements, jokes and false threats are an absolute no-no, even when you're flying with other airlines."

According to Comair's conditions of carriage, the airline has the right to refuse to carry you or your baggage if  you make any form of threat, display unacceptable behaviour and you and your baggage are seen to be "endangering the safety, health, comfort or convenience of other passengers or crew". 

Unacceptable behaviour as per the conditions of carriage include "making a hoax bomb threat, as well as putting the aircraft, or any person in it, in any danger, deliberately interfering with the crew in the carrying out of their duties as well as failing to obey the instructions of the crew relating to safety or security". 

It can also choose to transfer the diversion costs onto you if the resulting "unacceptable behaviour" causes any delays.  

But that’s not the only minefield you need to be aware of avid travellers.

From carry-on restrictions for liquids and gels, to remembering your unabridged birth certificate for under 18s - here are a few things to keep in mind so you don’t end up looking like your passport photo by the time you get on the plane.

According to the Association of Southern African Travel Agents (ASATA), the following four points of reference should help you breeze through airport security.

1. Be smart about what you pack in your hand luggage

Did you know that cheese or sausage is indistinguishable from explosives in the X-ray machine? So, better leave your cheese at home as well! 

The items most frequently confiscated at OR Tambo International Airport are:

1.     Blades and razors
2.     Corkscrews
3.     Firearms and ammunition
4.     Golf equipment
5.     Knives, forks and scissors
6.     Nail files and nail clippers
7.     Ninja stars
8.     Pocket knives
9.     Safety pins and needles
10.  Tools
11.  Toy guns

Unless you’ve been sojourning on Mars, you should really know by now that it’s not wise to bring a full bottle of shampoo in your hand luggage. Liquids, Aerosols and Gels (LAG) are restricted on international flights.

You can still bring LAG items in your hand luggage, but the bottles can’t exceed 100ml and should be packed in a plastic re-sealable bag. Not sure what LAG items are? Simple rule of thumb is: if you can pour it, pump it, squeeze it, spread it, smear it, spray it or spill it, it’s considered a LAG.

Sharp items are also a no-no, as well as toy guns and real firearms. You would think this is common logic, but OR Tambo recently provided a list of the items most often confiscated when passengers enter security checkpoints, and guess what? Blades and razors top the list. 

2. Be prepared… but don’t overdo it!

Your mantra to get through security quickly and efficiently should be: ‘always be prepared’.
This means you should probably leave your favourite bangles and charm bracelets and heavy metal clothing at home. Put your watch, belt and mobile phone in your bag before it hits the security belt, and have your ID and Boarding Pass in your hand. Wear shoes that don’t need to be laced up and can be easily slipped off or on. Remove bulky jackets and scarves and have them ready to place in the tray.
Remove your laptop as well as any large electronics from your bag, but don’t overdo it either. Tablets and cameras DO NOT need to be taken out of your bag - don't make this rookie mistake.

3. Pick the right queue

Picking the right queue is crucial if you want to zip through security in less than 15 minutes.
The Golden Rule is to NOT get in line behind families and/or strollers, elderly, and people wearing shoes with many laces, straps, or boots with heels.
SEE: SA can do much to make travel easier for families - Jo-Ann Strauss
Where should you queue? People traveling for business are usually a safe bet. Not only do they tend to only have a briefcase or one carry-on item, they’re also pros at passing security lines and follow the same ‘be prepared’ mantra we told you about.

4. Be friendly and polite

While annoying and time-consuming, the security process at the airport is important if you want to travel with peace of mind. Security officials have confiscated guns, hand grenades and bombs from travellers in the past, and help make your journey safe.
So, be polite and friendly, and remember that if you pass the security without hassles you’re one step closer to your next travel adventure.

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