Whine Wednesdays: Airport “Security” (Wait, Wait, Wait, Wait….)


I was getting really tired yesterday with airport “security” when I was traveling from Cairo to Montreal via London Heathrow and Toronto.

Whine Wednesdays Airport Security

Usually, I try to avoid transiting in London Heathrow to the best of my abilities especially if a terminal change is required. I wanted, however, to check out the new Star Alliance terminal 2.

Exit immigration in Egypt and entry immigration in Canada were both breeze. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same about the transit security at the Heathrow and entering the “secure” area in Toronto after an international flight.


There really must be a better way to handle airport security. Why would I need to go through the security again in Toronto when I have cleared it in London? I understand that western countries may be suspicious about the screening in some countries and thus the re-screening in London when coming from Cairo.

And why do these security check points always seem to be understaffed resulting in unnecessary long waits?

I would have probably wasted at least an hour more had the British Airways agent not been willing to tag my checked bag to Montreal when I was traveling on separate tickets via London. There is nothing preventing airlines to do this, but many have stopped.

Perhaps it’s time for the governments, airlines and IATA to put their heads together and develop a globalized security standard which can be implemented and carefully monitored to allow passengers to flow more freely. That would be good for us and good for the airline’s operations and bottom line as well.

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  1. I agree such security screenings are absurd…the bane of my travels (we all hate LHR’s anal security staff) is doing this coming off flights from the US at HKG and NRT and transiting onward. (Particularly irksome as I like to keep a small pair of trimming scissors which are now legal for carry-on in NAmerica and the EU, but not the rest of the world.) But your YYZ complaint doesn’t really fall into the same category (sorry must defend my home turf) since you were now entering Canada, clearing Canadian customs (even if you had through checked your bag to YUL, did you not have to claimed it at the first point of entry into Canada, YYZ?) and then re-entering the domestic wing of the terminal for your flight to YUL. Had you been connecting from the US or another international flight to an international flight there’d just be a cursory document check but no security at YYZ (unless you changed terminals). I don’t understand how BA could have checked your bag all the way through to YUL, without your having to collect it at your first Canadian point of entry, YYZ, then recheck it with your onward airline. (It’s not clear from your description which was the separate ticket: LHR-YYZ-YUL or YYZ-YUL or CAI-LHR?

    Sorry a bit confused by this one.

    • A lot of airlines have agreements in place to allow for the onward transfer of luggage when flying on different airlines and connecting cities and on different tickets. e.g. i can fly on Emirates to KUL, then onwards with MAS to (say) Penang. Bags can be checked all the way through.

      • That’s not the issue I addressed. I’ve had SQ check through bags from SIN to NRT to LAX when I was on a separate ticket with AA ex-NRT when flying them from SIN-NRT. My point was that even if BA through checked the bag it still would have had to be picked up at Canadian customs at YYZ before being put back for the YYZ-YUL flight. I know when connecting at many EU airports off international flights most bags can go through to the final European destination without being picked up at customs at the EU gateway airport. That’s not the case in Canada or the US.

        • A lot of countries have customs clearance for baggage at the final destination. International bags get put on a different carousel than the domestic bags from the same flight. I don’t know if Canada has such a system or not as I’ve never flown through there but it’s very common in Europe, Middle East, and Asia.

  2. Hi, guys. This is absolutely not a problem exclusive to Heathrow. Try going through Dulles or Bush/Houston where they used to require to go through US immigration, even though you night spend less than an hour on US soil. I missed countless transfers before they introduce OnePass and Pre-Screen. No amount of pleading would get you anywhere. Just came through Houston from London. Our bags were checked through to Mexico without a problem, although we had to queue and be fingerprinted, etc for US immigration/OnePass even though we only spent an hour on US soil.

    • There is no “used to”. The US does not have international transit facilities like most countries, all passengers have to clear immigration. This will not change anytime in the near future either because it would require airports configured to have all international flights in isolated areas and a way to prevent people from leaving the international departures area without clearing immigration. Since the US doesn’t have exit immigration, I don’t see this being even remotely feasible.

      • Yes, Gaijinsan. You are right. Should have been clearer. My point was that at Dulles and Houston, you used to have to join the general visitors’ immigration queue, which is usually very lengthy, and could take an hour or more to get to the front. It’s much better now that they have introduced OnePass. But, still a hassle, when one is only transiting.

  3. Never tried it, but I’m told the quickest way to get through LHR security for a connecting flight is to not follow the flight connections route but rather go out of the secure area (i.e. as if leaving the airport) and then to go back in through security. Apparently thats quicker.

    A few months ago when my friend on a non EU passport arrived into LHR on a Club Europe ticket they were given a fast track pass by BA. However LHR staff refused to accept it, advising that BA were no longer paying for the service! It took him 45 mins to clear transit immigration before then moving on to security. Im pretty sure he would have been quicker going out of security and then coming back in.

    Meantime, when i fly into certain regional UK airports its the non EU passport holders who often clear immigration before me (on a UK passport!).

    However, JFK is in a league of its own. Once after queuing for what seemed an eternity i got my turn at the immigration booth, only to watch the staff all leave – it was shift change. No new immigration staff arrived to attend to the queue i was standing in = chaos.

  4. John, I hate to disappoint you, but IATA already did their share, with the so called “Checkpoint of the future”. Being the useless organization that they are, it didn’t go anywhere past a fancy announcement and a few presentations.

    As for governments – they simply don’t care 🙂

  5. Whatever the case, airport security is ridiculous at many airports. Avoid Dulles if you’re anything but white as you WILL be required to undergo the “random” security check. It happens to me all the time, and I cannot say “even though I have a Canadian passport”. I personally don’t understand why nations do not require security standards that are as stringent when flying within their borders, as though nothing can happen within. For example, in Canada, nobody cares when you fly from say Toronto to Vancouver. I myself have never had issues with flights headed anywhere but to the US, although the risk is very high there so I understand but why do they always assume it’s the non-whites who are likely to commit crimes? Any crime that involves a minority is always initially deemed a “terrorist” act. We’re not barbarians!


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