After the foiled attempt on Christmas Day to bring down transatlantic flight 253 bound for Detroit, there have been many calls for better safety measures. More careful screening of passengers and their belongings passing through airports was immediately implemented. But as this BBC report from Colette Hume shows, security is still not exactly where it should be.
Read the Transcript
This text below is a phonetic transcript of a radio story broadcast by PRI’s THE WORLD. It has been created on deadline by a contractor for PRI. The transcript is included here to facilitate internet searches for audio content. Please report any transcribing errors to firstname.lastname@example.org. This transcript may not be in its final form, and it may be updated. Please be aware that the authoritative record of material distributed by PRI’s THE WORLD is the program audio.
MARCO WERMAN: New anti-terrorism screening measures for international air passengers took effect yesterday. The procedures were a response to a Nigerian man’s alleged attempt to blow up a transatlantic flight from Amsterdam on December 25th. And yet, the heightened security did not stop Colette Hume from boarding a flight from Sydney, Australia to the US yesterday, with a forbidden can of hairspray in her bag. Ms. Hume is a BBC reporter. She arrived in New York yesterday morning, uncaptured, and every hair in place. Briefly, Colette, how did the baggage handlers in two separate searches miss this full sized aerosol can?
COLETTE HUME: Well, as a seasoned traveler, I know only too well what you can and can’t take on an aircraft. Now the tin of hairspray got into my bag, I think, because I’d used that bag during an overnight stay to see friends out in New South Wales. I really didn’t even know it was there, and in fact, the first I knew about it is when I went through my bag, on the aircraft, when the doors had been shut, to look for a book. I simply couldn’t believe that I’d got through a scanning machine at Kingsford-Smith Airport in Sydney, and gone through a second hand search and not one security had picked up this bright pink aerosol can during those searches.
WERMAN: Right, this wasn’t some sort of “gotcha” phony journalism experiment that you pulled off. This wasn’t on purpose.
HUME: I really truly did not know this tin was in my bag. But you know, when I got onto the plane and found the aerosol and talked to some of my fellow passengers, we found that we had similar stories. They said they’d been checked through with various items that they didn’t really think they were allowed to take on flights previously, but certainly the one thing that is different now, even from flights I took leaving London early in December out to Japan, is that the atmosphere on airplanes is very, very different.
WERMAN: Right, very jumpy I imagine. Now I remember this movie, “Live and Let Die,” one of the James Bond films, in which Roger Moore creates an aerosol flame thrower. He has I think a can of deodorant, but he sparks it up with a cigar. So what is the problem with an aerosol can?
HUME: Well, I’m a journalist, not a pyrotechnic expert, but what I can tell you is this, the size of this aerosol can, it was more than 200 milliliters, is twice the limit of liquids allowed on US flights, indeed, all world flights. When I got off the flight at LA to recheck my baggage, I spoke informally to a member of ground staff at LAX. And you know, her eyes just widened, and she said, “No, ma’am, absolutely, you will not be able to take that on the plane.” Now fortunately, I was able to recheck it and it’s made its way with me to New York.
WERMAN: I thought maybe it would convince you once and for all not to use hairspray any more.
HUME: Well, from the serious angle in this, I think traveling, especially air travel, has changed beyond all recognition. You know, the old days of air travel where you could spend time hanging out with the flight assistants, maybe getting a cup of tea and talking to them during the flight, those days have disappeared.
WERMAN: Well, just on the record, Sydney Airport did say that it successfully screens millions of passengers each year, and that issues such as yours, Colette, are extremely rare and they are taken seriously. So, Colette, you are the exception. The BBC’s Colette Hume in New York. Colette, here’s to a new year of good flights. Thanks so much for your time.
HUME: Thank you very much.
WERMAN: And you can read more about Colette Hume’s airport security experience at The World dot org.
Copyright ©2009 PRI’s THE WORLD. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to PRI’s THE WORLD. This transcript may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, without prior written permission. For further information, please email The World’s Permissions Coordinator at email@example.com.