I went through Sydney airport this month to fly overseas, and flew back downunder 2 weeks later. And what I can tell is that they are very serious about security in airport. There was no way I could have carried illegal stuff.
checking out step :
I didn’t have to simply send my hand bag on the conveyor belt for the airport staff to scan its content, like we usually do in other airports.
On top of that check, they asked me to go through that big machine that will scan your whole body. It’s a machine that looks like that gate you usually go through and that will beep if you still have any metallic thing on you… but way bigger.
They ask you to spread your legs and hold your arms straight in front of you. The machine will then scan your body. Then they can see everything from outside displayed on a flat screen. I don’t know how much of your private parts they see, as the image is gone when they allow you to exit.
I personally do not very much like that.
First, I’m not sure whether or not it will do any damage on your health. They don’t inform you and you don’t really have time to ask.
The second thing I do not like about that is I don’t know what they do with that body scan image afterwards. Is it recorded by the company that sells the machine, to sell to some insurance companies or something ? There again, there is no disclaimer outside before you enter inside the machine.
Unfortunately, I don’t have any choice if I want to get to the plane. If I refuse to go through, they will just have me facing that binary choice : either you go through the scan or you don’t fly … :-\ *sigh*
Then, it was not enough. Right after, that means even before collecting my hand bag and stuff, I had this guy who interrupted me and scanned all my body from head to toe with that little pen sized stick he was holding. What’s that for I asked ?
That was for explosive trace detection he explained. *sigh* Do I look that much like a threat ?
If they are so rigorous with every passenger, then you can, more than ever, board on the plane safely.
[2 weeks later, after some good fun in south east Asia...]
I just landed in Sydney.
checking in step :
When you get in the queue to get through customs control, there is one security guard who inspects that yellow card you have to fill with your details. He asks you a couple of friendly questions about the purpose of your visit. (first security check)
Then you clear Australian customs; well just like any airport (second security check).
Then, while waiting for the conveyor belt to send my luggage, I had another security guard, who conducts random checks, who came and asked for my passport, and went through another serie of questions : where did you fly to ? what do you do in Australia ? how long have you been with your wife ?
how often do you go to the toilets ? (third security check)
(Considering there must be a few airport employees actively monitoring passengers’ activity through dozens of CCTV cameras, I would add a fourth security check at this stage).
We got the luggage, everything’s fine, let’s head to the bus station now I thought to myself. No! Not so fast! I was not done with security check yet ! I was asked to send my luggage through another scanner. That scanner you never go through, and while walking to the exit doors, you look at and think : these guys being kept must be illegal migrants or carrying illegal stuff. Well, this time it was for me (fifth security check). That is a scan they will randomly require in many airports and whose purpose I never really understood. You haven’t got any contact with the external world since you took your flight, and your bags were scanned in the country you flew from. How could in that case any illegal or dangerous stuff land into your bag ?
Then, another security guard stopped me and asked to inspect the golf clubs bag (sixth and final security check).
I actually don’t know what he expected to find there.
I went through six security checks in total, of different purpose, but still.
They also inspect it if you declare any food.
By the way, I strongly advise to declare it if you carry any food along with you. If you do, the authorities will just inspect to see what you bring on the Australian territory. I understood that they don’t accept import of meat/fish. If you don’t, and they find out with one of these numerous security checks that you actually have food in your bag…aie! They will fine you heavily. And you can’t tell you didn’t know. It is written everywhere in the airport, with photos illustrating it, that you have to declare food you are carrying along with you. The fine amount is enough to dissuade you not to declare the next time you fly.
I have traveled in many countries, and never went through so many security scans and questions. I was surprised this time to have to go through all that. Especially, I don’t have a big scar across my face, and a beard, and tattoos on my arms, and a tough guy look, that could make me look like a suspect. In fact, I more look like a geek, Mark Zuckerberg like, and I was dressed like a lambda tourist.
I have been through security checks in airports, where the guy checking what’s inside your carry bag, on the monitor, seems to be more busy playing with his smartphone or even reading a newspaper, but Sydney Kingsfordsmith airport is not one of them.
When the Sydney airport website says : “Security throughout the airport precinct is coordinated and afforded the highest of priorities”, I know they mean it, and it is not just to fill a security measures webpage.
PS : they obviously didn’t find anything suspicious or illegal on me after all those security checks