On Friday 6th October, I boarded a scheduled flight with an item as potentially deadly as the box-cutters used by the 9/11 hijackers. It was a jagged, razor-sharp, broken bottleneck. To get it on to the plane, I didn’t have to smuggle anything through the X-ray machines or metal detectors, nor did I contravene the current heightened level of security at UK airports which bans passengers from taking liquids airside with them. I simply exploited a feature of airports which is as common as the planes on the runway – the Duty Free Shop.
By checking in early for Flight EZY18 from Edinburgh to London Luton, I was able to obtain a boarding pass with “security number" 8 which allowed me to choose a seat at the front of the plane. It would have been easy for me to charge forward any time the cockpit door was opened. The rest doesn’t bear thinking about. My “weapon” cost £5.99 from the Duty Free – a bottle of Lindemanns Cabernet Sauvignon.
Having bought the bottle, I headed for a toilet cubicle where I set about transforming it into something far more potentially lethal than the cans of Coke, shaving gels and other substances which have been routinely confiscated from passengers at UK airports since August. First, I pushed down the cork, using a car key and my little finger, until I was able to empty the contents of the bottle down the toilet.
Next, I wrapped the empty bottle in a towel from my hand-luggage and placed it back in the plastic carrier bag I had been given at Duty Free. I smashed the bottle against the toilet bowl. The sound was successfully muffled by the towel, the toilet flush and a PA announcement.
"It would have been easy for me to charge forward any time the cockpit door was opened. The rest doesn’t bear thinking about. My “weapon” cost £5.99 from the Duty Free – a bottle of Lindemanns Cabernet Sauvignon."
From the carrier bag I retrieved several shards of glass and the jagged bottleneck. I decided the razor-sharp bottleneck would make the most effective weapon. I wrapped this in my towel and put it in my hand-luggage. I left the remains of the smashed bottle in the carrier bag and deposited it in a litter bin outside the toilet. There were no remains of my actions left within the toilet cubicle.
I now had in my possession a deadly weapon, and hadn’t had to smuggle anything through airport security. If three or four like-minded characters had bought a bottle of wine each from Duty-Free, it would have been easy for them to hi-jack a plane. There were flights to New York and other international destinations at gates either side of my flight to London.
I boarded my flight unchallenged and took my seat just a few rows from the cockpit.
The solution to a security loophole like this would appear to be quite simple – to ban the sale of all bottled drinks within airports, or sell only plastic bottles. But that will never happen, because the priority of the British Airports Authority – which runs London’s and Scotland’s main airports – is profiteering from, not protecting, its customers (See Airport Security – The Great Consumer Rip-Off here).
BAA makes a huge percentage of its profits from the rent it charges shops to operate within its airports. And that’s why travelling by air these days isn’t just uncomfortable and unpleasant - like flying from one shopping centre to another - but has just got much more dangerous. I have emailed this story to BAA, and as soon as I get a response will add it to this post (after a week, BAA still hadn't bothered replying).
You may be interested to learn I also sent copies of this story to all the national newspapers of England and Scotland. Not one of them chose to report it. Obviously the lack of celebrity involvement outweighed the public safety angle. So for all those news editors who wouldn't recognise a good tale if it burst into their bedrooms wearing a niqab, carrying the latest seismograph print-outs from North Korea and shouting 'Jose Mourinho's fucking mad!'
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