Airport Security: Unpredictability is king

Posted on by Mike Evans

On my way through security this morning at London Heathrow, en route for Washington DC, I spied a change to the notice of dos and don'ts. Perhaps it has been there some time, I just haven't taken heed before: "All computer protective covers, including neoprene, must be removed". This gave me a few anxious moments. My MacBook Air is encased in a black Speck case which is difficult enough to attach and virtually impossible to remove in a hurry, especially with a crowd of impatient travellers in the queue behind. Even the iPad mini has a neoprene back case and a SmartCover.

This morning I sailed through without a problem. The staff were more interested in my belt than the cases on the computers. Even my camera gear, which was stored in my flight bag, went unmolested. In some airpots, Frankfurt for example, cameras and lenses are often hauled off for screening in a nearby room. Security experts say that unpredictability is the key to preventing illicit items being taken on board. We have no choice in the matter but, sometimes, the decisions are arbitrary. I now worry that one of these days I will be asked to strip the Speck case off my Air. What a nightmare. I would be interested to hear from experts whether the presence of a plastic or neoprene case really makes a difference.

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