Traveling with film: Heathrow update
So, I have just come back from a trip to the UK. Which was wonderful, thanks for asking. But there is usually one thing that fills me with dread when leaving the UK, and that is bloody Heathrow airport!. That place is a nightmare. But it doesn’t have to be. And here is how.
So, I was at Heathrow a couple of days back. I have had plenty of experience in the past with the jobsworth muppets there insisting on scanning my film with the X-ray despite my protestations. I have even been threatened with arrest if I didn’t comply with the commands of a po-faced git who couldn’t care less about my film (or swearing loudly at myself or my family).
This time I decided to try a different tack. I have a Star Alliance card which gives me a perk of being able to go through priority screening. I don’t always do this as I usually don’t need to, but I saw the queue and though ‘sod it, I have a test to perform’. So I went through the screening, which was completely empty and asked to have my film hand checked. They said “NO, not on your nelly, you cheeky bugger”. But I was insistent.
After an extremely polite exchange and many apologies I asked if I could speak to the supervisor and they agreed. But it wasn’t the supervisor that came over, it was the flipping head of security! And he was a throughly pleasant chap.
And here is the skinny.
The head of security at Heathrow told me it is standard policy to scan film. And hand checking is practically impossible because of the amount of foot traffic they get. He kindly offered to hand check my films this time as there was nobody about, but he explained that more often than not they will refuse you.
But there is a way around this he told me. X-ray bags. Yes, X-ray bags (just like these ones).
I thought they would not go through or cause them to rip through all of your gear piece by piece (kind of slamming the holding people up argument). But I was told there is a very simple way of doing this.
1. Put all of your crap in the trays as usual. And don’t forget those coins in your pocket!
2. Get that laptop out, as you know how dangerous those things can be.
3. Put your film in an X-ray bag.
4. Put that X-ray bag in a tray all on its own, with NOTHING else in the tray.
Well, actually what happens is, the film goes through, cannot be scanned and is flagged for inspection. But as it is not with all of your other gear it will be the only thing inspected. Basically you are forcing a hand check on your film, but only your film. Which means you win, and your film stays safe.
Pretty much most of the airports I fly through are more than happy to hand check, but when you find a place like Heathrow you might find these simple steps handy.
Cheers and happy travels.