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Old Dec 1, 12, 8:28 am   #1
 
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Temper blowout at LHR T5 - screeners lying or truthful?

Sorry for the length of this.... cliffs notes at the end for those who don't want to read it all.

So I had a very tight connection at LHR last night. I got off my flight in T5 C gates, and was departing also T5 C gates, but of course you need to take the train to the main terminal and back again.

So me and several others are running all the way. As we come up the escalators, a lady opens the ropes to a new screening area and ushers us in - which was much appreciated because there were only 2-3 people in line, vs 20-30 in each other area.

It went downhill from there.

We all unload our bags/shoes/laptops and the usual stuff, and a young girl pulls ALL of our bags and puts them on the table for the swabbing. I ask her if they are all there for secondary screening and she says yes, I look and see there are already 5+ bags waiting and a line of people waiting while a screener is laboriously taking every item out of the bag he is working on and swabbing. I ask if there is only one swabber and she says there is two, I ask if she could please check because there is only one, and we're all on the verge of missing our flight (until this time I was very polite). She appears irritated at being questioned and says "I don't know, whatever" and rolls her eyes and walks away. I say "excuse me?" and she replies that she doesn't need to answer to us and it will take as long as it takes.

I walk over to the screener doing the swabbing and ask him if he has a colleague here because we're all on the verge of missing our flights. I realize he is in the middle of an argument with another pax and appears to be doing a "go slow" move and swabbing *everything* as slowly as possible. He tells me he is not going to compromise security just because we are impatient. This really set me off as I was suggesting more help, not that he compromise the job. A verbal back and forth ensued with me highlighting that this theatre had failed to stop any real threats, and him claiming to the (irate at this point) group of passengers, that we have no idea how many incidents they have prevented, but he cannot tell us more because it's "classified". I demanded a manager come immediately.

At this point, a man behind me started to complain that I should "leave the Brits alone and if I want to be loud and bossy I should go home to my own country, the USA, where such people belong". This is amusing considering I am British, not American, and a nasty exchange ensued

At this point, there were 5 angry passengers all complaining to the screener/swabber guy, one passenger complaining to the angry passengers to "leave the Brits alone", 3 screeners who had ceased all interaction with the pax and were ignoring all comments, and one screener maintaining that none of us understood how important and serious their job is, etc.

The first pair of angry pax walked away (two women), and one of them pulled out her cell phone and took a picture. The swabber noticed this, stopped what he was doing, ran over to her and told her she had just broken the law and that he was going to get the police. She started to walk away and he *grabbed her arm* and said she was not going anywhere until the police came. I walked over and told him he had no right to touch ANYONE, EVER and that if she broke the law, his job is to notify police, not to be a self appointed police officer and that he has NO powers of detention.

I demanded he call a manager *right now*.

Few minutes later, manager arrives. Nice guy, but we couldn't communicate. I told him we just need alacrity and all will be OK. He just kept saying "we have a procedure and the more time all of you spend complaining the slower it goes". He was very apologetic, but I explained that while we appreciate the apologies, they are hollow and do not address the problem, and the best solution would be to add an additional swabber, or that he himself could jump in and the problem would be solved... and in the future, the young lady pulling bags aside should be more random, not just pull 5 or 6 in a row because the swabber was standing around doing nothing and there were not many pax in that security line. That's not random, that's "Oh, look, Bob is standing there doing nothing, let me just get a bunch of bags in queue for him".


It was really a bizarre scene... a lot of nasty words back and forth, and its lucky for all involved it did not turn into something physical (especially with the fool who seemed to think the Brits honor needed defended).




Cliffs notes: is it really illegal to take pictures of the screening area at T5? I asked the swabber what law she broke, and he refused to say. He said he cannot tell anything about security procedures. I said I am not asking about procedures, I am asking what law states that you cannot take photos at the screening area? He said "UK Law". I asked him to clarify *which* law - he must know if he knows it's illegal, and he just ignored me and went back to telling the girl she was in a lot of trouble. Of course, when the supervisor arrived, me and the girl pointed out the swabber was WAY out of line, and he told the girl she is free to go.

So apparently even if it is against the law, you can still do it and get away with it
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Old Dec 1, 12, 8:36 am   #2
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This incident simply reinforces my decision to keep the UK on my personal no-fly list, largely due to the mandatory nudeoscopes, but also due to their stupid policies and nasty employees being on par or occasionally exceeding their USA counterparts.

Happy to empty my wallet elsewhere.
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Old Dec 1, 12, 9:14 am   #3
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spiff View Post
This incident simply reinforces my decision to keep the UK on my personal no-fly list, largely due to the mandatory nudeoscopes, but also due to their stupid policies and nasty employees being on par or occasionally exceeding their USA counterparts.

Happy to empty my wallet elsewhere.
That is quite an accomplishment indeed- I'm glad I haven't experienced the same level of rudeness from the UK chaps, yet. The only credit I can give to the UK screeners is that they took quite a lot of abuse, and us Pax were dishing out the abuse to a certain extent. Although I don't think complaints that, while angry, are legitimate qualify as 'abuse'.

What I found so irritating is the "just repeat the company line" stuff with absolutely zero regard to logic, reason, professionalism or courtesy. I don't think the screeners at T5 realize they are a service organization. They exist to offer a service, and the pax are their customers.

When the relationship between customers and service providers becomes distorted, this type of stuff happens.

It's unfortunate, because I've done more than a dozen long haul flights with BA this year and spend tens of thousands of $$ with them. And I have 3-4 more trips coming up in the next 6-12 months and I am looking at other non-One World carriers so I can connect in Spain, France, Switzerland.

And I *want* to pay the 50% premium for BA service and tickets. I just *hate* the hassles of LHR, even though I like the BA service there.

Very sad.
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Old Dec 2, 12, 9:22 am   #4
 
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And had you done the same at JFK -what do you think would have happened ?
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Old Dec 2, 12, 9:37 am   #5
 
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So is it against the law to photograph screening procedures in the UK or screening personnel without consent or permission?
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Old Dec 2, 12, 12:39 pm   #6
 
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Originally Posted by SWCPHX View Post
So is it against the law to photograph screening procedures in the UK or screening personnel without consent or permission?
I have no idea. In the US, it's generally covered under the First Amendment, and/or the fact that government officials operating in a public space have no expectation of privacy. I'm not sure what the UK has done since 1776.
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Old Dec 2, 12, 1:59 pm   #7
 
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Originally Posted by duchy View Post
And had you done the same at JFK -what do you think would have happened ?
Had I done what?

I don't understand your question.
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Old Dec 2, 12, 2:01 pm   #8
 
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Originally Posted by SWCPHX View Post
So is it against the law to photograph screening procedures in the UK or screening personnel without consent or permission?
This is what I am curious about.

To their credit, the screeners at LHR were at least willing to suffer the wrath of the customers without the "do you want to fly today" BS, but I am not sure that really counts for much when the end result is the same - stupidity and missed flights, costing millions per year in lost productivity, for zero useful purpose.

Sort of like kicking someone in the nuts. Doesn't really make it any better if you give them a smile while you do it.
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Old Dec 2, 12, 2:17 pm   #9
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I was connecting at LHR (jfk-lhr-zrh) and so had to clear LHR security at T5. They had lots of lanes, but lots of people were being singled out for "complete swabbing"--I was one of the "lucky" ones--why was I singled out, I had not placed a 15 gram tube of ointment in one of the ziplock baggies. This errant ointment did pass tsa security when I left jfk.
Give me TSA incompetence any day over security at LHR,
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Old Dec 3, 12, 4:58 pm   #10
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Is there an option to grab your stuff, leave and take the train to Paris and fly out from there? Not sure if the UK has a requirement to complete screening once it begins....and I don't care since I'll never be traveling there since I'm a bossy American
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Old Dec 3, 12, 9:27 pm   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bocastephen View Post
Is there an option to grab your stuff, leave and take the train to Paris and fly out from there? Not sure if the UK has a requirement to complete screening once it begins....and I don't care since I'll never be traveling there since I'm a bossy American
In the UK, you can refuse and you'll be escorted out of the airport and are supposed to be prohibited from flying that day. You can still take the Eurostar or similar out of the county.

Me, I don't like stupid games, nor will I support a nation that engages in this ridiculous, panty-waisted idiocy. My money and myself go to other nations.
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Old Dec 3, 12, 11:49 pm   #12
 
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Thank you for confirming my decision to avoid LHR at all costs!

On my last trip to Europe, I spent quite a bit more money (about US$350) and endured an extra connection to avoid having to transit in LHR, and I am relieved that I did.

I should point out -- and I say this as an American -- if I didn't live in the USA, I would also avoid transiting in the USA at all costs, too. As long as the security theater continues, I would encourage others to do the same. Based on their treatment of visitors, the USA & the UK are two countries that neither welcome nor deserve our patronage.
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Old Dec 4, 12, 2:44 am   #13
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After reading this, I place the blame with the passengers for escalating the situation.

A few lessons:

1. NEVER ask screeners to speed up their work. I have never heard of this having the desired effect in any country. At best, they will slow down, and at worst, what happened here.

2. NEVER tell the screeners that they are engaging in security theater or that they have failed to stop any threats. I guarantee you that they are not going to stop and agree with you.

3. Why would you ask "what law" prohibits taking pictures? Did you expect that he would be able to cite the statute and bill number?

This incident is unfortunate but not unexpected considering how the passengers behaved. My guess is that if it had happened in any major US airport, it would have been a lot worse.
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Old Dec 4, 12, 7:14 am   #14
 
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THis is why I avoid LHR every time I can. LGW, too, for similar reasons (a hanging-bag hook caused a major issue there one day). And the Brits really don't care.
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Old Dec 4, 12, 7:25 am   #15
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SWCPHX View Post
So is it against the law to photograph screening procedures in the UK or screening personnel without consent or permission?
Probably. If nothing else there's Section 58 of the Terrorism Act which a bloody-minded cop (or more likely a PCSO wannabe) could apply.

Heathrow also has the usual proviso:
Quote:
No person shall erect or use any apparatus for transmission, receipt, recording, reproduction or amplification of sound, speech or images for commercial purposes.
which, though not applicable (see bolding), might well be cited by some jobsworth there.

'Street' photographers in the UK are regularly harassed despite assurances (aka lip service) from the authorities saying it's not illegal.
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