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Size Really Does Not Matter After All
BA Terminal 5
Member Name: HeatherBurns
BA Terminal 5
Date: 03/02/11, updated on 03/02/11 (41 review reads)
Advantages: Trains from Kings Cross/St Pancras go directly into Terminal 5; making transport easier
Disadvantages: Security measures can be intimidating for older, infirm, or scared travellers. Be forearmed
When does "security" become "invasive" and "humiliating" ???
We got into Terminal 5, Heathrow, 3 hours before our flight was due to depart.
Knowing the rules, we had our toothpaste, medicines, and shaving gel in a clear re-sealable plastic bag.
I carried it through in my hand, in clear view.
Fine so far.
We both took off our outer waterproof coats, but omitted to take off the zip up inner fleeces before getting to the walk-through scanner. I was told to take it off by a male member of staff.
I explained quite politely that I wore it as a "cardigan" and it was not a "coat" showing my COAT in the box, along with my BOOTS, my handbag, and my plastic bag of liquids and cream products.
He got shirty with me and DEMANDED I remove my fleece "COAT"
Reluctantly, I did as instructed, when he pushed the point.
"Lift that up" (indicating my polo-necked very tightly fitting sweater)
I refused point-blank. So he shouted to his colleague that he needed the police to help with "her". He was now right up in my face. I could smell his lunch on his breath. My partner was getting agitated watching from his own side of the conveyor belt - pulling his boots back on, and lifting his wallet and watch etc from the box.
I backed away from Herr H., and shouted to my partner to come and help me.
"or else you can go in there "(pointing to a sort of cubicle) "and she" (his female colleague now taking an interest in our conflict) "can give you a proper "doing".
(I assumed he meant a full-body, cavity search which would have me naked, and explored in my private areas just to humiliate me, not because they suspected me of carrying drugs, or bomb equipment)
She moved me aside.
I explained my situation and recounted his threats to call the police if I failed to do as HE instructed me.
She stroked my arm, cautiously, and said she was going to sort it out for me.
They spoke, he stormed off, and yelled back "well, I'm putting it through again. Something not right with it" and he dragged my hand luggage back through the exray machine and finally my partner had to open it up and display it's contents in public.
What had alarmed Herr H. was a plastic bag of sugar (yes, granulated SUGAR) and a plastic bag of KENCO COFFEE GRANULES, with a rubber band holding them shut, and together, in between our waterproof pac-a-macs, and waterproof over-trousers, and boots. (Hill-walking stuff)
Once he was "satisfied" we were nothing more than tourists, who after 4 nights in London, were carrying the remains of a bag of sugar and a jar of coffee with us, to the hotel in Rome, perfectly legally - he left the area.
I didn't see him again.
But I made a formal complaint about having to expose my bra, breasts and belly in PUBLIC, to a male member of what is after all, mere Security Staff. NOT the police. NOT M15, or M16, and not the Government in any shape or form. They are employees of BAA who own the airport terminal building.
I have also made a formal complaint to my MP and notified my GP that my disabled status and condition were totally ignored, that I was humiliated in front of men, women and children for NO GOOD REASON, except I was reluctant to remove a fleece cardigan after taking off coat and boots reasonably beforehand.
At what point does "Security" become invasive and humiliating??
When the staff employed think they have supreme powers, when they don't. When they think they can treat ordinary travellers like "suspect terrorists" to prove their lack of bias or bigotry - and pick on people like us, old, not quite healthy now, and scared of travelling to prove their point.
On the way back, Security was quite a different matter.
I had told the Supervisor lady what flight we were coming in on, date and time but of course, that did not fly.
Heathrow refused all incoming flights, 19th. December, and our connecting flight home that night was also cancelled.
We were stranded in Rome another night. Arrived to find Heathrow in "lock-down" (melt down actually) and were physically barred from entering the Departure Lounge until we had a confirmed flight.
And even when I had boarding passes for a flight in hand, we had to wait 3 hours in Arrivals.
No help. No hot food. No phone calls. No internet access, it had been overloaded so they stopped access to it.
We could not get a flight out night of 20th. So we had to go out in the snow, and find a hotel by ourselves.
When we got on the hotel internet connection, and found a new flight, we went back to Heathrow with new boarding passes in hand, and again, were sent into the Arrivals area on the ground floor for over 3 hours.
It was midnight 22/23rd when we finally got to our front door. (over an hour and a half by taxi in deep ice and snow from the airport) We should have been in our own bed on the night of the 19th.
Yesterday, 2nd February, 2011, we FINALLY got our compensation letter. The money is in the bank today, and we have been repaid in full for hotels in Rome and London, the meals and drinks we had over 2 un-planned days, and even the transportation to and from the Airport in both cases.
No, not really.
We tried to phone BA, and Expedia for that matter from Rome Airport. Neither would accept the calls. We were simply cut off.
We tried to phone both companies from home just before Christmas, and again after the New Year break.
Endless attempts to email, feedback online on their own sites, etc, and the ultimate phone calls asking for the receipts which we sent them, 5th January, Recorded Delivery, Next Day Guaranteed
Both companies denied actually receiving them, until I reminded them of the current EU LAW 2004.
Would we actually pay BA for flights in the future?
Because their planes are exemplary.
I love the little monitors which pop down, above the seats, which show you details of your route, the air temperature outside the plane - and inside it - the weather where you are going to - and the speed the plane is flying at, along with the height off the ground. Great way to overcome your vertigo, is to watch the screen and marvel at modern technology.
I love the way the Cabin Crew take good care of you, when it is explained you have difficulties with panic attacks under certain circumstances; and allergies to certain foodstuffs. They go out of their way to help and make you feel safe, and comfortable.
I know they are dearer than the "budget airlines" we are currently booked onto, in April and June this year.
But those prices carry a certainty.
What you see is what you get. WYSIWYG.
With BA, you can be certain there are no *hidden extras*.
Seats with Easyjet from Edinburgh to Krakow this coming April were £48 each. But, here is the but - the taxes and fees, and fuel surcharge added, including carrying ONE suitcase in the hold between us, not each, was over £300. That makes the journey, 2 people with only 1 suitcase over £400. Not so cheap that way, is it?
In June we are flying BMI Aberdeen to LONDON (domestic flight only) return. That too, was meant to be a "sale" seat. It also cost more than £400 for 2 people with 1 suitcase in the hold between us.
So for us, BA still offers the best value for money, we can each take hand luggage in the cabin, and one case EACH - for FREE, in the hold; we know the drill with them, and Heathrow Terminal 5 now so it's less intimidating and, of course, the Snr Supervisor lady had to take my complaint seriously and investigate it.
That man will not be making women, young or old, lift their sweaters in public to display bra, breasts and belly to the world at large again!!
Older, wiser and ready next time. The two parts of the coat will be zipped together and taken off as one item, and we will be wearing slip on shoes - for simplicity - carrying NO toiletries or medicines in hand luggage, they are now going in the suitcase, in the hold, safely.
LESS hassle, if you have less to bother Security.
Lessons have been learned.
Summary: The biggest airport in the world lacks compassion, understanding of travellers needs and fears