Security scans on airports all over the world became painstakingly long and precise ever since the attack on the Twin Towers in New York in 2001. All sorts of security measures have been introduced, controlling everybody and everything in great detail. Fellow travelers of the pre 2001 era like myself remember joyful and positive worldwide traveling atmosphere before the World Trade Center was destroyed and over 3000 people died in one single incident. Until then, security on airports was mainly there to prevent anybody from bringing explosives, arms or drugs on board (which was basically a consequence of the tragically famous Lockerbie bomb attack). Nevertheless, officers frequently used to smile and problems were resolved right on the spot with human friendliness and kind treatment. Travelers were simply considered what they were and not potential terrorists. Airplanes were considered as such, not as potential flying terror attack and death bringing machines. Metal detectors and perhaps at most a personal verification at doubt were the standard. Enthusiastic dogs were used to sniff explosives. Futuristic technology such as personal body scanners were never heard of and maybe not even thought of yet in those days. While traveling in a plane 20 years ago you were actually able to watch the pilot at work and as a child it was common to be invited into the cockpit during long flights. No need to tell you how much fun that was.
I miss those times. Today it takes twice as long to get through security and the whole procedure is way less pleasant. Toilet products in hand luggage may not exceed 100ml and they have to be rigorously stored in a zippable plastic bag. To be honest, I never understood why but security is really precise about that. Your laptop has to be removed from the bag. Not even nail clippers are allowed to travel with you on board and you might be asked to take off your shoes to get though the immensely sensitive metal detectors. Don’t think that will prevent you from being searched by hand as well with sometimes too much of eagerness for my personal taste. Although I really think that all this fuzz about security is really annoying, I do understand that there might be some reason and usefulness to it in the end. Planes and air travel need to be safe and secure, but do these procedures actually create more security?
As an Italian born in Germany I often fly back and forth. Country and cultural differences in security treatments are not only evident, but a reality. While Italian security is usually just as professional, it is friendlier and people are mor human in their behavior. Germans tend to be way stricter, take rules by the letter and are painstakingly precise in making you follow every single step of procedure – even if it is bluntly not necessary. A rule is a rule. Germans are not flexible. They are precise and efficient. Fellow travelers I speak with are often quick in their judgement , convinced that this difference in behavior translates into more efficient security when departing from Germany. All rules are followed precisely and the security standard is really high, they say. My personal experience was somehow different.
In the last three departures from Cologne-Bonn Airport I was quite surprised that nobody ever actually checked my documents, while in Italy it was checked twice. Nobody made sure that I was the person I pretended to be by having my data registered with the airline over an online portal without every having to register my passport’s numbers. Lately I even went “paperless” loading my electronic tickets directly into the passbook app without printing boarding passes. Security searching and bag checking were as annoyingly precise (and slow) as always. Body search was performed by hand and a little too precisely by my personal taste, again. Brand new body scanners slow the security check procedure further down but, believe it or not, nobody asked for and checked my passport.
The first time it happened I thought it was a mere coincidence and a smile came to my face. There go the precise Germans with all their security procedures, but they forgot to check my passport. I thought this was a one time case and rare to happen. Well actually it is not. It happened three times in a row.
Of course my doubt fell on some kind of new technology that scans my face without me ever noticing. I mean in times where a machine can actually show you naked while fully dressed, this would not be surprising. It is surprising though that I could not find any evidence of this kind of technology. Neither in person at the airport, nor searching for information on the Internet. No kind of futuristic facial recognition technology is being used in Cologne as far as I could understand. Simply nobody checked my passport and ID, three times in a row.
Sure enough, most certainly I could have potentially done very little harm with my bare hands and my well checked hand luggage. Anyhow I could have been anybody boarding on that flight.
What do you think? What’s your airport security experience?