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What I learnt when things went wrong at airport security

What I learnt when things went wrong at airport security

Perhaps you know the feeling: a journey that seems to be going implausibly well? You can be fairly sure things will go awry imminently. This is how it worked out for me at the start of a journey to Tel Aviv on Saturday.

London St Pancras International was en fête to celebrate the coronation. The platforms and concourse were busy, but the staff made sure people got where they needed to be. Which, in my case, was Luton airport. I had bagged a sub-£10 bargain from the London terminus to the Bedfordshire hub, using the freshly branded Luton Airport Express (LAEx) and the newly opened Dart shuttle. The LAEx is really a humdrum commuter train to Corby in Northamptonshire. But the first stop is Luton Airport Parkway, in just 22 minutes on a good day. Which Saturday was.

Parkway station (which, incidentally, is the last place that anyone seeking an actual park should look) is much improved. No longer must rail-to-air passengers negotiate a maze of escalators to emerge beside a dismal old bus for a stuttering journey up to the airport.

A single escalator leads up to a new concourse for the £300m Dart – a driverless shuttle train that takes just four minutes. Position yourself in the right train carriage (five or six from the barrier at St Pancras) and you can sprint up to catch a just-departing shuttle. With the travel gods smiling, I made the end to end journey in 27 minutes.

The Wizz Air ground staff were smiling, too. For some reason I had been unable to check-in online for my Wizz Air flight to Israel, but after a couple more minutes I was given my precious boarding card.

What could possibly go wrong? Not security, surely. I frequently research and write about aviation security, and furthermore have some previous experience frisking passengers at Gatwick (a job, not a hobby).

In those days passengers for Tel Aviv – and, for that matter, Belfast – were taken to a secure area for a comprehensive hand search of everything in their cabin baggage. While aviation security leaving Israel remains extremely tight, budget airline passengers flying into the country from the UK go through the same process as everyone else.

I like to think that I can happily negotiate airport security on autopilot: swig the contents of the water bottle (to be filled airside); laptop and liquids out in a separate tray; watch, phone, keys and belt removed. Then…

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