Simon Calder: 'Rather unusual'? You can say that again

Share

Perhaps it was Tony Douglas's choice of phrase that pushed Willie Walsh over the brink. On Saturday afternoon Mr Douglas, who is managing director of Heathrow, told Sky News that passengers were experiencing "rather unusual travel arrangements".

It is, indeed, rather unusual for passengers using Europe's busiest international airport to be told that their flight has left without them because they had failed to get through the security queue in time - or to find that the aircraft and crew that was waiting for them is among the 33 per cent of flights ordered to be grounded by Mr Douglas.

Heathrow's biggest customer is British Airways, whose chief executive is Mr Walsh. His unprecedented attack on his airline's landlord, BAA - which he accused of incompetence and poor planning - was not really aimed at Mr Douglas. Its real target was the Department for Transport, whose imposition of the most stringent rules ever on cabin baggage and passenger screening have brought Heathrow close to meltdown.

This morning hard-pressed security staff will remove passengers' copies of The Independent and anything else beyond the bare minimum of passport, ticket, wallet and keys. Close by Boots dispenses a wide range of chemical products. And at Dixons, travellers can also replace the laptop or camera that has had to be checked in to the hold.

These self-contradictory rules might merely look ridiculous, but for two serious consequences.

First, the insistence that every passenger receives a body search even if they have passed the usual metal-detector means the screening process takes four times longer. No-one in aviation believes that a Ryanair hop from Stansted to Spain is under the same threat as a US airline flying from London to Washington. Yet Medit- erranean holidaymakers have to suffer the same draconian regime as transatlantic travellers

The second worry is that vast resources are being deployed to implement this ludicrously blunt strategy, reducing the focus on other equally terrifying threats - specifically the use of shoulder-launched missiles to shoot down civilian aircraft.

Meanwhile, terrorist groups will be taking comfort from the way in which even a failed alleged plot can bring Heathrow.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Office Administrator is requ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - Commercial Vehicles - OTE £40,000

£12000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion and growth of ...

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - Sheffield - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer position with a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Leader - Plasma Processing

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Operations Leader is required to join a lea...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: Most powerful woman in British politics

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
All the major parties are under pressure from sceptical voters to spell out their tax and spending plans  

Yet again, the economy is the battleground on which the election will be fought

Patrick Diamond
Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders