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Airport Security

It's a fact of life that when you fly anywhere these days, whether it is abroad or within the UK then you will have to pass through security controls before you can board an aircraft. It can be time consuming and inconvenient, but after New York on September 11th 2001 few would argue that these controls are not necessary.

Each Airport will have its own security controls, run not by the airlines, but by the Airport Operator. They use approved Security Companies and vetted staff which must work within very strict guidelines laid down in law, and regulated by the government.s Department for Transport. (Officials from the Department regularly test the system anonymously and without warning).

Security searches are carried out on all passengers and baggage before they are allowed to board an aircraft. This process starts when you check in. You maybe asked certain questions when you check in with your bags. These can be simple questions (and possibly to most people obvious) regarding who packed the bags and whether you are aware of their contents. After check in your luggage is sent on its way, but make no mistake it passes through an X ray examination before finding its way to the aircraft.

Before you can enter the departure lounge or go airside as it is known, you must pass through the passenger security controls. Here it is likely that you will have to queue. The length of time it will take will vary depending on how large and busy the airport is, and the time of day. At peak times at the larger airports you will need to allow yourself plenty of time. So don.t leave it too late before going to the departure lounge. Remember, if you get through security in plenty of time, you can use the time to have a look at the shops, have a cup of coffee, or a meal, read the newspaper or just relax.

You will need to produce your boarding card and passport. Security processing will involve you having to walk-through a scanner which will detect any metal objects. So any metal objects, and things like mobile phones will have to be placed in a plastic box or tray, and be put through an X ray machine along with any hand luggage you are carrying. You will have to remove your coat or jacket and in some places your footwear, before walking through the body scanner. If the machine bleeps you will be subject to a rub down search by a security officer. In addition random rub down searches are carried out, even if the machine didn.t bleep.

Since November 6th 2006 there have been strict passenger requirements as to what you are allowed to take on board an aircraft in your hand luggage. For a start you are allowed only one item of hand luggage, and it must measure no more than 56cm x 45cm x 25cm. If you are carrying a laptop computer then this counts as your one item.

In addition there are strict guidelines on liquid items you can carry in hand luggage. Liquids for this purpose includes thing like creams, lotions, perfumes, pastes ( including toothpastes), gels and things like shaving foam and deodorants. Firstly any such items must be in separate containers of no more than 100ml capacity. (Essentially this rules out any soft drinks or water). Any such items must be carried in one separate, transparent re-sealable plastic bag, measuring approximately 20cm x 20 cm. It must be produced for examination at the security controls. Also this plastic bag must be able to fit comfortably in your hand luggage once the checks are complete. (The best advice is that if the items are not essential for the journey then put them in your hold luggage).

Exceptions to this strict rule are essential medicines or baby food that you need for the journey. You may be asked further questions about their authentication, so be prepared.

Most security officers are conscientious and helpful and are only doing their job. So if you have any misgivings or feel uncomfortable about any aspect of the search just let them know. For instance some people might have a disability or medical condition, or might experience pain when raising their arms for a search. Let them know and you will invariably find them understanding and accommodating.

For further guidance visit the website of the Department for Transport.