Airport security, in case you haven’t been paying attention, is completely absurd. The goals are utterly reactive, always trying to fight yesterday’s threat, and the methods for checking said threats are spotty at best. So far as I know (and TSA-wise, I’m a bit out of the loop) the newest wrinkle is still the liquids thing, due to the attempted terrorist threat in London just over two years ago. The key problems, in my view, of the liquids thing is that a) the “terrorists” (assuming the morons that attempted the London plot could even be considered this rank) would not be trying the same thing again - they’ve proven to be pretty adaptive and forward-thinking; and b) the London plot, from what I’ve read, had next to no chance of success, even if these people did get onto the plane with their explosives. So, as a result of this, we are only allowed 100 ml worth of liquid per bottle on a plane, so long as the liquid is in a plastic bag.
Since the London threat, I’ve been on several flight segments, no fewer than 20 in Asia, and I’ve never checked a bag. Obviously, as I travel with tooth paste, gel deodorant, and other liquids, I smuggle this contraband onto every single flight. Up until my last flight, I had never been caught. If an idiot like me, who is more often than not two-thirds in the bag by the time I go through security, can get away with carrying liquids onto planes over 95% of the time, then how the hell does airport security intend to catch an actual terrorist? At the very least, even the laziest terrorist would be sober when passing through security, giving them a distinct advantage in surreptitiousness.
I’d had a good run at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport on my recent trip. I had to pass through it 4 times, and the first three went without incident, it seemed much better organized than before. (If you want to read my thoughts on this airport last year, AND you are my Myspace friend, you can go to myspace.com/helluva_lawnmowers and click on the blog link) The fourth time, it got me. It was fate.
Like countless other fliers, I was carrying liquids in my carry-on, as I was only traveling with a carry-on. I had a pint of Thai whiskey and some sunscreen, amongst other things. The whiskey wasn’t for the flight, as Asian carriers serve free booze anyway, and it was sealed. The sunscreen was a half-empty 125 ml bottle of Nivea. Nivea has a strange sunscreen monopoly in Asia, and costs over $10 for a small bottle, even in cheap countries. The rest of my items were deemed kosher by security, but they stole my whisky and sunscreen, because they exceeded that magic 100 ml mark, despite the fact that the whiskey was sealed and there were no more than 70 ml of sunscreen remaining.
I was pissed, to lose my overpriced sunscreen that can only be replaced in Korea by overpriced sunscreen, and especially to lose my Thai whiskey, which cannot be replaced at all. Why didn’t I just check my bag at security, you may ask? At most other airports in the world, this could be a solution. However, at Bangkok, one passes through customs, but not security, to get to the secured airside portion of the airport. All of the restaurants and duty free shops and smoking lounges and whatnot exist beyond customs, but before security. One only passes through security right before arriving at the gate, so beyond security, there is nothing to do. Nothing. Steel Chairs and a bathroom. Not even a vending machine. Having been to BKK airport before, I knew this, and thus didn’t go through security until final boarding call, making it too late to check a bag. Somebody, be it Thai airport security (just following orders, chief) the terrorists (not bloody likely to buy) or the crazed fear-mongering securinati, owes me a fucking bottle of whiskey. The sunscreen I’ll chalk up to experience.