how Brussels airport is making itself superfluous

So there’s been a bit of a scare with regard to flights to the US, after a terrorist plot was uncovered in the UK. Or, more accurately, after the Associated Press reported that the plot was uncovered. All sorts of new rules were instituted, particularly in the UK where hand luggage was outright banned for a couple of days.

Other airports on the European continent followed the new TSA regulations for flights to the US, which banned all liquids and gels from
carry-on luggage: Paris, Frankfurt, Geneva, Amsterdam all issued statements describing the new rules. Most of the above airports don’t even mention extra delays.

Meanwhile, flights from the UK started to allow carry-on luggage again yesterday, minus liquids of course.

But not Brussels. While every major airport on the European continent decided that banning liquids was enough, Brussels felt that banning carry-on luggage was necessary. I’m pasting the entire security bulletin here:

PASSENGERS TO THE US – new security measures
(12 August 2006)
Passengers to the United States departing from Brussels Airport are requested to be at the airport 4 hours prior departure. They will be allowed to take through the airport security search point, in a single (ideally transparent) plastic carrier bag, only the following items. Nothing may be carried in pockets :
• pocket size wallets and pocket size purses plus contents (for example money, credit cards, identity cards etc (not handbags));
• travel documents essential for the journey (for example passports and travel tickets);
• prescription medicines and medical items sufficient and essential for the flight (e.g. diabetic kit), except in liquid form unless verified as authentic.
• spectacles and sunglasses, without cases.
• contact lens holders, without bottles of solution.
• for those traveling with an infant: baby food, milk and sanitary items sufficient and essential for the flight (nappies, wipes, creams and nappy disposal bags).
• female sanitary items sufficient and essential for the flight, if unboxed (eg tampons, pads, towels and wipes).
• tissues (unboxed) and/or handkerchiefs
• keys
• 1 book
• 1 newspaper
• Mobile phone
• 1 laptop (inclusive adapter) in case
• PDA / black berry
• all duty free goods except: liquids, camera, not-allowed electronic articles (eg I-pods, gameboy, MP3-player,…)

My wife and parents in law are flying back to the US today. They had to follow the above rules. They have been allowed to take glasses but not cases for those glasses. In a plastic bag with their keys, amongst other stuff. And maximum one book. They had chewing gum and a candy bar in their plastic bag, but were told these would surely be confiscated.
These are 8 hour long flights, yet passengers are not allowed to take any water with them. Dehydration anyone? There were people in line who had to check their expensive camera – and of course the security personnel made clear that the airline would not take responability for any damage this could result in.

There was a family with four young children, who were each allowed one book only. People had to re-pack all their stuff right at the check-in counter to comply with these new rules.

For an unknown reason, baggage trolleys were not allowed while queuing for the US check-in – making the whole process even slower. People were given plastic bags to put their things in – but because people could not take their usual hand luggage, everyone was carrying far more (small) stuff to the check in counter, making things hugely slow and impractical.

On top of that, the security personnel told some outright lies. They claimed that the whole plastic bag nonsense is US law – and when it was pointed out to them that that is not true, they claimed it was ‘Belgian law’. That, too, is nonsense of course; it’s an airport regulation instituted by the clearly overzealous ‘Lokaal Veiligheids Comite’ (local security committee) of Brussels airport.

I want to know how plastic bags are going to make flying safer. I want to know how having 2 books is more dangerous than one. I want to know why a case for your glasses is dangerous in an aircraft cabin. I want to know how having candy bars and chewing gum is a danger to in-flight security. I want to know how having lots of small plastic bags with loose, badly packed items in an aircraft cabin is going to make flying more secure than before. And most of all I want to know why all of this is supposedly essential and for our security.

I’m flying to Switzerland today. It took me 3 minutes to check in. I have hand luggage. No plastic bags. I have 2 books. I have an mp3 player. I have candy bars. Heck I have a bottle of water! Will my flight now be less secure?

Guess what, Brussels airport: next time I come to Europe I’m going to seriously consider avoiding you. Paris and Amsterdam are only a couple of hours away on the train. Hey, and if anyone in government is listening – you don’t think this might hurt tourism a little, do you?

I suggest the security people at Brussels Airport start reading Bruce Schneier’s Crypto-Gram – particularly this article. And talk to their peers at other large airports nearby. Maybe that will bring some common sense to this airport. Until that day, I hope I don’t have to fly from here to the US again.

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4 Responses to how Brussels airport is making itself superfluous

  1. jag says:

    Wow — complete madness — I was amazed that they turned around a plane headed from London to New York because they found a cell phone on board.

    Two things — one, your links to Schneier don’t appear to be links, and two, is “redundant” really the right word for this?


  2. ward says:

    Thanks, the links are fixed. As for the title, it’s obviously not the right word since it doesn’t make sense to you :) I was trying to convey that if Brussels airport keeps this up, they will make themselves superfluous; there are many other large airports closeby, without these ridiculous requirements. I’ve rephrased the title which will hopefully make this clearer. If not, shout!

  3. Pingback: Off you go… into the purple yonder! » Brussels airport finally comes to its senses

  4. Pingback: Brussels airport finally comes to its senses | Off you go... into the purple yonder!

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