Although I have flown domestically a few times in the last twelve months it has been at least three years since I’ve flown internationally. The allure and mystique of the destination makes air travel exciting and something to look forward to but unfortunately the word “pleasant” is no longer part of that experience.
I discovered that the greatest risk in flying is not getting killed in an airplane crash, it is getting arrested for questioning the actions of the arrogant, rude and ever powerful security and airport staff.
This fear was reinforced yesterday when I flew from Sydney, Australia to Auckland, New Zealand to visit my daughter. I arrived at what now looks like a huge shopping centre with a few runways attached, it’s called Sydney Airport. Almost from the moment you arrive you are questioned, searched, database reviewed, over-charged for food and then as you go through to the gateway you continue to be annoyed by the inane restrictions on items you can carry on board and other impositions placed on you as an air traveller.
As the first wave of annoyance leaves your body you are forced to remove shoes, belts, watches, empty carry bags and handbags and allow intrusive examination of your personal items. You then pass through metal detectors to be dusted down to see if you have been building bombs and sniffed by beagle dogs to see if you are carrying drugs.
This over-the-top physical screening seems utterly futile and I just loath it especially when it is accompanied by rude and offensive security staff. Do these people think they have to be rude to be effective? I’ve got news for them. Many of us think it is time that they become accountable and properly trained.
I had made it to the immigration desk and was thinking ‘at last it’s over I’ve passed the rudeness test.’ But no it wasn’t to be. I handed over my passport to have it scanned by yet another machine when I unconsciously touched my nose. The Immigration Officer barked “Hey get your hand away from your face” as if I was trying to hide my identity for some malicious intent.
Had that been anyone else who talked to me in that way at any other place I would have said something unflattering to rebuke their rudeness but at the airport I could get myself arrested. I hate the kind of treatment handed out to law-abiding travellers…..why are we presumed guilty when all we want to do is go on a holiday?
I would have thought that the most effective counter terrorism work should take place long before a suspect arrives at the airport. Being rude to a 62-year-old traveller for scratching his nose is just a waste of resources and would do nothing to deter and capture a real terrorist. A fatal brawl at Sydney’s Domestic airport in March 2009 where a man was killed suggests that this type of security is not effective.
In addition to the hassle, rudeness and arrogance there must be a cost to all this wasted activity. With these kind of costs imposed on the travelling public, I would like to see the evidence of just how many hijackings or bombings they have prevented. I agree with some level of security, but I have not given airport staff authority to treat me or other travellers in any way they wish.