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Airport Security Summer 2002

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Airport Security Summer 2002

Security was tighter than ever when Lorry Patton flew to South Africa this summer, particularly at JFK and the flight returning to JFK from Johannesburg
Vancouver International
The departure flight on Cathay Pacific from Canada's Vancouver International Airport to JFK in New York was not at all intrusive. (The Hong Kong to New York flight was stopping to refuel and dropped off and picked up only a handful of passengers at the brief layover in Vancouver). Other than being asked at the ticket counter if we had any sharp objects in our carry-on bags, the biggest change was that the security staff at the entrance to the departure gates took a little more interest I had to turn my digital camera on and off, and we were all scanned with a hand wand even if the beepers didn't beep. Some people were asked to remove their belts and shoes, which were then placed on the scanner. Entrance to the airport terminal was unchanged.
JFK International
Entrance to the terminal at JFK was very different from the last time I was there: Sept 10, 2001. Security was at every doorway along with armed guards, and the entrances seemed to be barricaded from one another. They examined our tickets and ID before we were allowed in, our luggage was scanned and searched immediately. We were told to put any scissors, tweezers, Swiss knives and hair-dryers into our checked bags. Our carry-on bags were tagged to show they were examined and our checked bags were taken elsewhere. Most people, like me, were patient and quiet. Prior to boarding the plane, our ID's and tickets were checked again.
Johannesburg Domestic Terminal
Once in South Africa, check-in at the domestic terminal for the flight from Johannesburg to Capetown was very casual and relaxed. Our bags were scanned but not searched; our tickets were checked at the counter and our boarding passes were taken as we boarded the plane.
Capetown International
It was the flight from Capetown to Johannesburg to New York that had the tightest security inspections and it began at Capetown International Airport. The wise attendants pleasantly dealt with disgruntled passengers when we learned that we couldn't pick up a boarding pass or check our bags straight through to New York. It was very simple. We were treated as if we were on a domestic flight.
Johannesburg International
With only 90 minutes to make connections, we rushed to pick up our bags at the baggage terminal and then rushed to the South Africa Airways departure counter at the main terminal to check in again. Here is where it became obvious how serious the threats are taken on any flights into New York. At least from Africa. ( I don't know why all this precaution wasn't in place for the flights from Canada into JFK). Our bags were scanned at the entrance, we were questioned (did we leave our bags unattended? etc.) and then stood in line at the counter. Once past the counter, we went through another check point and then stood in line in a long corridor where security guards at tables examined our carry-on luggage again. We were given a token which we handed to another guard at another check point further down the line. I was expecting to enter a holding area at the gate, but no, this line emptied directly onto the plane. Yes, I counted four security checks. Almost, but not quite as tight as the security on the flight I took from London to Tel Aviv a few years ago. There they not only checked and rechecked personal belongings and ID, they also examined my address book, my itinerary and my list of 400 associates that were attending the convention that I was attending. They asked if I knew everyone on the list. And they were dead serious.