View Full Version : "Security" Farce

Final 3 Greens
6th Sep 2006, 05:25
Passing through Heathrow on Monday evening (at a non busy time), I was surprised to discover that the highly trained and alert BAA security operatives cannot, apparently, discern the difference between male and female pax.

I know this, because I realised that my boarding pass stub was in the name GUITERREZ/RMRS when I was walking down the air bridge to board.

Airbridge? you ask, what about the gate personnel.

Well apparently they can't tell the difference either.

But their IT system can.

When I returned to the front desk (which I thought was the only sensible course of action), the check in supervisor didn't apparently understand why I came back and was quite stroppy with me.

Once I explained, using very simple words, that my passport and boarding pass were for people with different names and sex, she eventually became quite worried.

On scrutinising the system, she then helpfully informed me that I was denied boarding at 20:08 :ugh:, because the record on their computer said I had a duplicate boarding pass - so there.

At this stage, the dispatcher arrived and confirmed that Mr F3G had in fact been allowed through the gate and returned.

Very helpfully, both then switched to their native language to have a serious argument about which of them was the biggest buffoon. As I speak their language, I found this quite amusing, if somewhat rude. At several points in the conversation, they were argung about why the computer system had caused the security breach because a warning buzzer did not sound. It seems that this buzzer failed and the agent didn't see the screen flashing a red warning message. This brought to mind the "smart systems, dumb operative" failure mode, what happened to cross checking the name on the boarding pass and the passport?

I went along with this joke, until they had finished, then thanked them for the new boarding pass and informed them that their converation had confirmed a systemic failure in security and that I would be taking reporting action. They did not seem to find that amusing for some reason.

FYI, I was not late arriving at the gate and the flight was far from full, so pressure to process pax quicklywould not seem to tbe a factor.

In conclusion, I believe

1 - security arrangements that cannot tell the difference between a male and female are ineffective

2 - the arrogant airline ground staff, who posted on another thread that pax have no common sense, should start converting their glasshouse into a brick one

3 - if pax transgress, we get hammered, patronized, lose some of our possessions or are made to check in valuables despite this invalidating insurance cover, but if the security or airline staff screw up it is shrugged off - this is not acceptable

6th Sep 2006, 08:19
F3G did you check in at a machine or with a person? If you checked in with a person, they have obviously made a mis-id. Is your surname similar to the name on the boarding card you were issued? Sounds like you were owed an apology.

Well done you for having that common sense to spot it.;) :p

6th Sep 2006, 08:38
Thank you, F3G, this pressure at the gates is something I have highlighted many times as a strong objection to airlines' obsession with On Line Check In and Self Service kiosks. The Gate Staff really don't have time to do their jobs properly!

6th Sep 2006, 15:16
Thank you, F3G, this pressure at the gates is something I have highlighted many times as a strong objection to airlines' obsession with On Line Check In and Self Service kiosks. The Gate Staff really don't have time to do their jobs properly!

What? Gate staff looks a the boarding pass. It says "MRS". It is a "MR." who wants to board. Realizing this takes what, .5 seconds? If they don't see it, they are in the wrong job.

However, let's start a discussion on the automated boarding machines that LH has. In Munich, for a domestic flight, you can check in on a machine, go through security with a brief look on the boarding pass but no ID check (!), and then board using a machine. That sounds wrong even for a strong proponent of check-in machines like me. Somewhere along the way, there should be a person checking ID vs. boarding pass.

6th Sep 2006, 16:15
"Mrs" F3G: But they would've stopped you if you'd tried to take your lipstick on board . . .:}

6th Sep 2006, 17:36
. The Gate Staff really don't have time to do their jobs properly!

Is this why on domestic BA flights, I can check in online, get through security with my home-printed boarding pass, and then board, past human operators at the gate, without anyone looking at my ID?

When this happened once recently, I thought it must have been a cock-up, but since it happened again the following week, I assume it must be SOP, which means I could book a ticket as Mr Michael Mouse, and nobody would ever know the difference.


Final 3 Greens
6th Sep 2006, 17:49

I checked in at normal desk, with a check in agent.

My name started with the same letter as the other pax, but is shorter and Anglo Saxon, however as someone with some pyschology education, I can understand how the brain could "see" the two names as being the same, fro emaxple yuo cna reda thsi, becuase the brain interprets general patterns, not exact words.

However, I suspect this was not the reason, I suspect that she issued a duplicate boarding pass for the pax who checked in immediately before me. In other words a typical human error.

Derek L

Funny you should mention that, one of the highly trained BAA personnel working in the landside area did make a joke about whether I was carrying foundation, lipstick etc, but I don't criticise him because (a) he displayed a sense of humour (rare) and (b) he did not handle the pass

6th Sep 2006, 19:28
Human error then. Still, the gate staff should have been nicer to you, it wasn't your fault.

6th Sep 2006, 20:31
What? Gate staff looks a the boarding pass. It says "MRS". It is a "MR." who wants to board. Realizing this takes what, .5 seconds? If they don't see it, they are in the wrong job.

From an agent's point of view, this is not weird at all! Just board an Amsterdam flight and you would know what I mean - there are loads of "MRS" who need a shave and loads of "MR"'s with decent cleavage!

All joking aside, when you are up against the clock, as you frequently are at the boarding gates - the worst offence in the book being a "Passenger Handling" delay - you do miss things.

....and on UK Domestic flights, both with BA and BMI, there are absolutely NO IDENTITY CHECKS WHATSOEVER unless you check in with a human being. Apparently, we don't need them!

Final 3 Greens
6th Sep 2006, 22:27

Human error at the check in desk and over reliance on automation at the gate. Over dependency on automated systems is truly dangerous.

However, in the bigger scheme of thing, far less dramatic consequences than the apparent human errors at KLEX last week.

We need to get beyond "fault" and understand root cause and systemic corrective action.

Sadly, I suspect that this particular gate team would struggle to spell systemic and fail to comprehend what it really means.

Apology not important, but the reversion to "blame culture" observed was truly depressing.

6th Sep 2006, 23:08
A sad state of affairs. In any system, whether it be security or quality control, there has to be a system based on redundancy, I know there were two checks in F3Gs case (checkin and gate) but if you used an automated checkin facility you may be reducing it to one or none.

For example in Zurich, which I travel from often, I always use the automated check in, I then proceed to passport control where my passport is checked but not my boarding pass. I then proceed to the gate where, and I'm only flying internationally from Zurich, my boarding card is enough to get me on the aircraft. Once I'm on the aircraft there have been no checks to see if I'm actually the person named on the boarding card.

In Strasbourg it's a different story completely. I'm nearly always in possession of a paper ticket where I can't use automated checkin so I go to the counter and checkin where my identity is always checked via my passport or my Carte Spécial (ID card), at security my boarding card is checked but not my identity. If I happen to be travelling to LGW then both my person and hand luggage are hand searched and this applies to everyone going to LGW and has been like that for a number of years. If I'm heading on a domestic or internal schengen flight then my ID card is checked against my boarding card at the gate, and it really is checked, they run their finger along my name on both items. Again, it's always been like that. If I'm travelling outside Schengen then I pass through passport control where my passport is checked against my boarding card and, get this, the police officer in the booth has a printout of passenger manifest of each flight (there are only about 4 non-schengen flights a day though) and he puts a neat tick by your name on the printout. My ID card and boarding pass are again properly checked at the gate.

Strasbourg is the exception and in my experience most gate agents in mainland europe don't check ID against boarding cards, though I should say there is normally a separate layer of security for those travelling to the UK and US where this does happen.

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