At last some common sense

A speech by British Airways chairman Martin Broughton which criticised the ridiculous security arrangements at British airports has tempted the Minister for Transport to tentatively agree that its a bit daft.

I’ve only be banging on about the issue for three years but I suppose I’m not the chairman of BA, however its nice to note that he’s missed my spend in his organisation and wants to tempt me back.

Sorry Martin, you can still stick your air travel up your jacksy for having once promised to never fly again I am not a man for turning, to the great exasperation of my family – my passport expires next year, it will not need to be renewed on my account.

Let me once again regale you with the story of my last trip via air, Menorca 2006.

We’ll skip the bit about the airline that we originally booked with going bust two months before we flew because we were transferred to another carrier, so that was ok then, or so we thought.

Queued to check in at Leeds/Bradford Airport with hundreds of other fools on a hot sweaty August morning, answered all of those ridiculous “security questions” at the check-in desk – how many times have those questions been asked in the last ten years and how many terrorists have been foiled because of them – and if they were really so effective then why bother with the rest of the security measures ?

Having dealt with the check-in desk with that bored air of nonchalance oft used by me when, well, bored, we faced the security scan and x-ray.

Now this was 2006 so at least you didn’t have to take your belt and shoes off first but as usual I was stopped for a frisk and it was while this was happening that I noticed a male and female security guard beckoning Jodie over to a separate table – lets remember here she was 14 years of age at that time.

After convincing the frisking guard that I wasn’t Carlos the Jackal any more (the moustache didn’t suit me), I stepped over to the table where the female guard was asking, nay telling, Jodie to place her backpack on the table, I was asking if I could help when the male guard placed a huge palm on my chest and gently pushed me backwards asking me to not interfere – apparently the searching of children at airport security is permitted without adult representation, the huge nobhead of a guard stood in front of me while Jodies bag was emptied onto the table and she was then frisked by the female officer.

I would have quite happily turned around and gone home at this point for my only thought was that if air travel was reduced to this now then I didn’t want anything to do with it, if it was so dangerous to board an aircraft that you had to search and frisk 14 year olds without allowing their parents to comment or assist then frankly I didn’t want to board their aircraft.

Our replacement air carrier was an un-named one in an unmarked Airbus A320 and after landing in Menorca we disembarked from the rear of the aircraft and it was while descending the stairs that a wisp of smoke emerged from the engine on that side – by the time we got to the bus that was to take us to the terminal building the wisp was a constant plume of black smoke, fairly obviously an oil leak of some sort, as the bus set off the black plume was steady, the engine was surrounded by ground technicians who were starting to remove panels and one of the flight crew was coming to see what was happening.

I was just glad that we’d chosen Menorca as a destination and not an airport ten minutes further away.

Two weeks later and arriving at the airport to come home we were instructed to pack all electrical items, phones, MP3 players, cameras, into our hold luggage as we wouldn’t be allowed to use it in flight, again after another terrorist alert, I tell you, its dangerous stuff is this flying lark.

A different unmarked aircraft, an older Boeing, strangely quiet when we boarded, strangely quiet and strangely dark inside, mainly because the aircraft was generating no power of its own, its generator was fooked. Not to worry we were all told, just sit down and a ground generator will be plugged in soon to get the engines started then we’ll be fine, the trolley dolly smiled at everyone and we could tell that she had her doubts too but like good British people we all sat down and didn’t complain, and smiled back whilst thinking “if the engines stop at 30,000 feet how are they going to restart them then ?”

A generator on a truck did indeed arrive shortly, plugged us in and the lights all came on, the music tape started from where it had left off and the air conditioning came on – then with a clunk it all went off again.

“He’s had to go start another aircraft” was the explanation, “he’s coming back soon though”

I think it was probably at this point that I leaned across to Suzanne and declared that this would possibly be the very last time that I ever flew anywhere, ever.

The year after that some fuckwit drove his Jeep Cherokee into Glasgow Airport in an attempt to blow up the departure lounge and only succeeded in setting fire to himself and then dying some days later, Darwins law of Survival of the Intelligent demonstrated admirably, but this action resulted in half mile exclusion zones being imposed on all traffic at airports causing Leeds/Bradford airport to resemble the famous painting “Napoleans retreat from Moscow” on any summer weekend as thousands of families drag their wheeled cases behind them, trudging along a dual carriageway when once they could park right up to the airport door.

The same year saw the ban on liquids of any description being carried onto an aircraft, unless of course you had bought them in the airport shops, a cynical ploy to not lose trade in their own outlets that most travellers saw straight through and then of course the need to remove your shoes before boarding as if you were visiting my posh Auntie Phyllis’s.

I mean it, most seriously, if flying is as dangerous as they make it out to be then I want nothing to do with it, not now or ever…

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