29 May

Airport Logic: Cabin Baggage Regulations

Expat Gone Foreign, tXc, Travel comics, airport, viajar

In 2006 terrorists planned to detonate peroxide-based liquid explosives on board of seven airliners travelling from the UK to the USA and Canada. As a result, liquids in containers over 100 ml have been banned as cabin baggage in commercial flights ever since, due to the fact that 400 ml of liquids such as nitroglycerin are enough to cause mayor damage to a plane. Let me state right here that this regulation is as effective as a red traffic light in Grand Theft Auto, for so many reasons.

First of all, the mandatory quantity of maximal 100 ml per container might be a harmless amount of liquid unable to cause any damage, but a handful of those containers  is certainly not. Since 100 ml containers are permitted, one could successfully get though airport security carrying 400 ml of liquid explosive as long as it is divided in several tiny bottles or cans. Not giving anyone any ideas here.

Even more unsettling is the fact that the liquid ban only applies to cabin bags: check-in baggage is not always subjected to the same screening process, and whether a passenger is carrying a bottle of Sherry or a canister of nitroglycerin in the check-in baggage, no one will know or stop the items from getting into the aircraft. The result could be an aircraft blown into smithereens hours later. In 1994 terrorists used fourteen innocuous bottles of contact lens solution to transport nitroglycerin (see the Bojinka plot). In this case they taped a detonator to the arch of their feet and confused airport security by wearing jewelry and clothing with metal, but the electric current from a simple device – such as a cellphone – is enough to activate an explosive. All this to say that liquid explosives in cargo holds can be detonated by passengers comfortably sitting in the cabin.

So dear airports around the world: if there is technology available to reveal trace of chemicals on skin and clothing that can be configured to detect components of explosives, why aren’t you using it so that we can all go back to carrying our shampoo on cabin? And while you are at it, why not enhancing screening of employees and the scope of security controls?

I love travelling and of all means air travel has always been my favourite. But are we ever going to be safe?