Friday, May 11, 2007

Alert for Heathrow Airport: squeeze into one carry-on

I recently passed through London's Heathrow Airport on my way to and from Cyprus and will be doing so again shortly on my way to Venice for a cruise, and I wanted to pass along this bit of advice: bring a carry-on bag with you large enough to stuff all your other carry-ons into.

When you get to the security line in Heathrow, they allow only one carry-on per passenger to be sent through the X-ray machines. That includes items such as purses, shoulder bags, briefcases, and laptop computers. In other words, unless you are willing to check one of your carry-ons right then and there to be carried in the baggage compartment on the plane, you'll need to stuff all your items into one bag or they won't allow you through security.

As you might imagine, it's quite a chaotic scene as everyone starts repacking items to try to squeeze everything into one bag. In my case, I was carrying a shoulder bag and backpack and had to stuff the former into the latter. I managed to do it only by removing the extra pair of shoes I was carrying in my backpack and sticking one shoe into each pocket of my trousers (yes, they objected to me putting two pairs of shoes into the basket to go through the machine!). I looked ridiculous, but I made it through.

On my way back, after I had acquired a few items in Cyprus, I had to check my backpack onto the plane -- and, of course, it got lost and didn't make it to my home for several days after I did.

There doesn't seem to be any logic to this requirement -- rather than speeding things up at security, it slows them down for anyone carrying more than one bag -- and it has nothing to do with any specific airline (in fact, no one at British Airways warned me or anyone else about this, as far as I could determine; they let me carry two bags onto the plane with no problem). All it creates is a major annoyance, a lot of rumpled items, and more checked baggage as desperate passengers throw their hands up in the air and trust their carry-on valuables to the airlines.

As I say, just a word of warning if you're passing through London on your way to your cruise.

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