Setting: International Departures. Near gate for JFK flight at San Jose airport in Costa Rica. June 2008. [For one to be at this point, one had to go through airport security already.]
Main Character: A man (we’ll call him shopper man) shops at duty-free before boarding his flight (incidentally, it’s also my flight). He buys a huge bottle of Jack Daniels.
Act 1; Scene 1: Boarding starts. But before passengers get to the actual gate to get on the plane, travelers must go through a second round of security. Tables, wands, security is at the ready to search bags again.
I didn’t see shopper man purchase the bottle of JD, but I am nosy, and right behind him, and he told security that he bought it at duty-free…he even showed his receipt noting the purchase just a few minutes prior! But security takes away his HUGE bottle of JD. The duty-free shop was probably less than fifty feet (I’m bad at math but the boyfriend said that’s a good guess) from the gate. In fact our gate was next to duty-free. It was RIGHT.OVER.THERE.
Both of our mouths, as observers, drop in shock. Shopper man’s mouth did a little more than drop with some key phrases and emotions. He was given the option to check the bottle in his luggage. We moved through and left the poor guy at one of the tables not knowing what he would do.
Act 1; Scene 2: Shopper man boarded sans bottle.
He was seated near us and the boyfriend asked what happened after we went through. Shopper guy told us he was given the option to check it (which we knew) but what we didn’t know was that the process to ‘check it’ required him to go back to the main terminal so they could try to retrieve his bag. Then he could put the bottle in and check it.
Because of the time and uncertainty involved, the likelihood that he and his bag would both make the flight was not worth it to him. With the departure time closing in, shopper guy declined and basically donated the bottle to the security team at that gate at the SJO airport for their after work party I am sure. Cheers.
There was no way to know. And there was no way to argue. If he had chosen to check it at that point, who knows if it would have made it on the flight since we were already well into the boarding process. I’m pretty sure he dropped a nice sum on that bottle thinking it would be okay to bring home. Alas, it wasn’t. It was an expensive lesson for him, and a good one for us.
We also experienced the unexpected during a layover in Frankfurt. After flying from Newark to Frankfurt, we had to go through security before we could make our way to the gate for the Frankfurt to Dubrovnik leg. At Frankfurt’s security we were scrutinized for having carry-on approved (via US standards) liquids in our carry-ons. Mind you, this passed muster on the flight from Newark. So major screening ensued.
More recently, we had some extra pesos to spend before boarding a flight baack to the States from Buenos Aires (EZE). Like shopper guy in Costa Rica, we were drawn to the Malbecs at duty-free. We had quite a bit of money to spend (failing miserably at my mission to spend all funny money before arriving at any foreign airport) so we loaded up on boxes of famous Argentine cookies, and one bottle of wine. We both had the Costa Rica incident on the brain and we were only willing to gamble with our funds to potentially lose one bottle. Lucky for us, we didn’t lose it. At EZE they package the bottle in a sealed bag that once broken, you’re safe. That seal must not be tampered with and remain as is until you pass through US Customs to avoid confiscation.
Security screening is not consistent within the US. Don’t expect it to be elsewhere around the world. I’ve seen it first hand and I know that you’ve got to take it in stride. Because the rules are inconsistent across the board, and the world, there’s nothing you can do about it.
Traveling is all about expecting the unexpected and sometimes you are simply at the mercy of what that particular airports rules are that day, at that time. It’s all for our safety anyway, isn’t it?
What have YOU seen in airports that makes you go hmmm?