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Baby food and air travel

These are the rules on taking baby food in your carry-on luggage, from the Department of Transport:

Liquid baby food or sterilised water, sufficient for the journey, can be taken through airport security.  The accompanying adult will be required to verify by tasting.

The sensible thing, then, would be to make a parent sample one carton or bottle, randomly selected by security. But what actually happens – at least, what happens at Glasgow and Belfast International airports – is this: when you’re carrying cartons of ready-made baby formula, the adult will have to decant *every single sealed carton* into bottles, tasting each and every carton.

It’s not that formula is minging, although it is; it’s that the cartons state (and pretty much every baby book says) that ready-made formula *must* be discarded if it hasn’t been consumed within an hour of opening*. But, hey! Only terrorists want their kids to have uncontaminated food!

For fuck’s sake.

* Personally I think the 1-hour thing is balls, but that’s what the manufacturers, and the doctors, and the baby experts say. 

13 replies on “Baby food and air travel”

I’ve never been to Belfast City (airport) but Belfast (middle of nowhere) airport does have that nice you’ll have to walk to the plane rustical touch *and* a nice cafe where they sell soda bread at a fiver an ounce. I’m not even going to mention the stupidity at Glasgow since last summer’s “event” – although isn’t it about time they got rid of the “temporary” signposts and diversions and replaced them with a “If you take this exit of the roundabout it’s £3 per 20 minutes to park, and no, you can’t turn around or we might shoot you” with a “go and wait nest to the rental car pick-up, it’s free” sign? Or is it just that I don’t understand capitalism?

The thing that pisses me off about airports is having to pay for plastic bags to put your stuff in. 20p x loads of travellers = a nice little earner.

More on this: BAA says the rules are rules, so if you’re flying from Glasgow to America the best thing to do – seriously – is to take enough baby milk for the Glasgow to London leg, and then hope the post-security branch of Boots has the right kind of formula in sufficient quantities for the London – US leg. Bloody idiots.

I’ve emailed the DfT about this, because opening baby formula in security – hardly the most hygienic environment – flies in the face of all the health advice on formula from the royal college of nursing, European Food Safety Authority etc.

You know the way they have those big clear bins they chuck confiscated scissors and nailfiles and things into? Well, most airports just mindlessly adopted the same method for the newly banned liquids. Except scissors don’t get more dangerous when they’re in contact with other scissors. If they really believe that these liquids are dangerous chemicals, shouldn’t we be alarmed that they’re putting them all together next to a big crowd of passengers? Call me picky, but that’s not what I like to see security personnel do with explosives.

You know what’s really stupid? Diabetics can take insulin needles on board, no problem. Vic has often said that she would actually have no problem with a rule that cabin staff have to look after your insulin and supervise you when you need it (as long as they provided it quickly when needed), because, after all, you could quickly and easily kill someone with it. But no. If you’ve got a letter from your GP (which is almost impossible to forge, especially since they have a list of all the UK’s GP’s signatures at check-in), you can take a lethal weapon on board.

For a while, Easyjet introduced a very weird variation on that: you could take the insulin on board, but a member of check-in staff had to hold it for you while you went through security — and then give it back to you as soon as you were through. What the hell?

What I find funny is that they don’t stipulate how much of the liquid you have to consume. A sip of anything probably won’t kill you. Especially if you’re the Dread Pirate Roberts and your baby formula is iocane powder.

I like the distinction of “sterilised water” + “verify by tasting” = contaminated water
What if you aren’t the parent but the rancid Gramps with dentures who happens to be carrying the bag? Poor baby, getting Gramps denture funk in her water.

What if it’s something liquid medicine that’s to be administered rectally? Are you supposed to drink that or shove it up your arse?

I thought US airports were stupid. We don’t have to drink our liquids and I believe baby formula/baby food is an exception without a defined limit. Which in the US makes sense because it’s not uncommon to travel over 2 1/2 hours making 1-2 connections though usually you don’t cross security twice when traveling domestically. Airports are getting better about supplying essential things after security but what really irritates me is how expensive it is. The governing bodies of these rules should subsidize the cost or offer it for free at a first aid type station. OR install drinking fountains. Dunno about the UK but drinking fountains are increasingly rare. I carry an empty bottle with me now and fill it with fountain water when I can find it or take it out of a fast food restaurant.

These are the US rules on baby formula – http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/children/formula.shtm

This is even funnier (from the TSA site) of what is approved to bring on board:

“Items used to augment the body for medical or cosmetic reasons such as mastectomy products, prosthetic breasts, bras or shells containing gels, saline solution, or other liquids”

this is part of a bigger list and it says you have to separate it from your other liquids and declare it. And you can bring it in the absence of ‘suspicious activity.’

So if I wear the Victoria’s Secret Water Bra and I have to take it off and separate it in airport security or tell some disgusting federal agent that I’m wearing a water bra I have a feeling I might act a little strange and/or suspicious.

I’m going to wear a water or gel bra next time I fly – I can’t wait to see what I will have to do to get through security with that! Thankfully I live in the US where I nor my travel companions will be forced to take a sip out of my bra.

Sorry, I find these flight rules hysterical.

Well, I don’t know. The first report of a passenger being forced to drink her own breast milk came from the US, and I was well unimpressed when I went through security in O’Hare. For some bizarre reason, what we’re doing in European airports now is copying over-zealous American security procedures. As I never tire of telling people, I flew between Glasgow and Belfast during the Troubles, and that was serious security: every single passenger got frisked, no exceptions, and a Special Branch officer watched you all — actually, the Special Branch officers were still observing every passenger getting off a flight from Northern Ireland into Glasgow (and, I imagine, all the other British airports) up till a couple of years ago. The chances of a terrorist trying to get on the flight were unusually high, and the security was thorough and it worked. But it was still very quick and no real inconvenience to the passengers. In those days, you were asked to check in an hour before your flight, not two, and that was still plenty of time for flights to Belfast, despite the increased security. And it wasn’t only the UK that had a terrorist problem: the IRA staged attacks in the rest of Europe, plus there was ETA, the Palestinians, Bader-Meinhof, the anti-French Algerian groups, whatever they were called, etc. So the Europeans have years more experience of dealing with domestic terrorist activity, and have generally been fairly successful — sure, we’ve had some bombings, but so have the US, and nothing like 9/11 has happened over here, because we’d never let a passenger take a Stanley knife on board. George Bush himself has publicly acknowledged that European intelligence services provide more useful anti-terrorist information than the CIA (though why he couldn’t follow that up by sacking half the CIA and rebuilding it, I have no idea). So why the hell are the Europeans, who had effective security measures in place already, now copying the time-consuming, often humiliating methods of the inexperienced US airports? Why didn’t someone in the American Administration decide to copy the security systems of countries with more experience? Come to that, why aren’t the US and Europe copying El Al?

> I thought US airports were stupid.

I’ve said this before: US airports are incredibly efficient compared to UK ones. Security is much more thorough (IMO) and yet you’re through in no time at all.

> If they really believe that these liquids are dangerous chemicals, shouldn’t we be alarmed that they’re putting them all together next to a big crowd of passengers? Call me picky, but that’s not what I like to see security personnel do with explosives.

Indeed. It defies all sense.

> So why the hell are the Europeans, who had effective security measures in place already, now copying the time-consuming, often humiliating methods of the inexperienced US airports?

I don’t think they are, really – it’s just good old-fashioned british overreaction combined with an equal amount of good old-fashioned british incompetence and bureaucracy.

I’ve written to my MP. Ho hum.

>Well, I don’t know. The first report of a passenger being forced to drink her own breast milk came from the US,

..And the incredible bad public reaction over that here forced TSA to revisit that measure. Anyway, I consider it a success if a TSA agent doesn’t put their badge on inside out so I can’t expect them to tell the difference between breast milk and a vanilla latte. Both highly dangerous fluids, of course.

>and I was well unimpressed when I went through security in O’Hare.

I’d be interested in what airline you were flying. O’Hare is my home airport and I’ve flown some outrageous number of flights in/out of it. I wouldn’t say it’s impressive but it also has some reasonable excuses depending on what terminal/airline you flew. Personally I think O’Hare is highly efficient given the amount of traffic and inability to expand. Relative to Atlanta Hartsfield, which it goes back and forth with on the busiest airport scale, I think O’Hare’s biggest problem is ATC, not TSA. But that’s only my opinion. As for Europe, Zurich is the most lacking in security (I’ve been through passport control too many times with my passport, in between my teeth, closed, US logo facing me. Venice is pretty hysterical too and designed by Fellini I think. Orlando is fascinatingly efficient. It looks terrifying when you see it but it moves incredibly fast because they actually had room to expand. That’s the big problem in a lot of US airports is getting the permits and funding to expand to conform to tighter security. Pre 9/11 it was not hard to get through security at all (obviously).

>For some bizarre reason, what we’re doing in European airports now is copying over-zealous American security procedures.

Our liquid rules though came after London’s as I recall it. I could be wrong about what the impetus was but I recall LHR/BAA (?) made that change before TSA did. But we could bring any liquid through without tasting or drinking it. Then the thing in London (?) happened and now all of a sudden we aren’t allowed carry ons and then all our liquids have to fit in a quart bag.

>As I never tire of telling people, I flew between Glasgow and Belfast during the Troubles, and that was serious security: every single passenger got frisked, no exceptions

My very first experience with being forced to switch on electronics et al was in that very scenario. It was very odd to me being used to walking onto US flights with just about anything you wanted.

>So why the hell are the Europeans, who had effective security measures in place already, now copying the time-consuming, often humiliating methods of the inexperienced US airports?

Truthfully, over the hundred thousand miles I’ve traveled over the globe, I’ve encountered and witnessed a lot more inefficient and humiliating methods overseas than ever in the U.S. I’ve missed more flights in Europe, had more luggage lost than anywhere in the U.S. In fact, I’ve never missed a flight in the US or had lost luggage. I’m not saying that there aren’t some incredibly asinine practices or inefficiencies but I don’t think Europe is a shining example at all. What WAS efficient was the pre 9/11 U.S. security and I don’t believe that the increase in red-tape is commensurate with safety assurance. That’s my problem with it.

Best (worst?) example: Around 1995ish I watched my coworker literally soil herself with diarrhea because the LHR security agent would not let her go until he opened every single piece of her bag. She was pale as a ghost and sweating profusely and incidentally a blond, blue eyed girl from Indiana with an “Aw shucks” accent. She was bawling hysterically and finally I yelled I would take responsibility for her bag and told her to just go. She ran off to the toliet sobbing and humiliated. Thankfully she had other clothes to change into with her. The agent scolded me that I’m in idiot for taking responsibility of a bag that wasn’t mine which was even more asinine given everything that had preceded it. She obviously wasn’t a terror threat (though she became a terrorist running around with soiled trousers) and was profusely ill (which was why we were flying home early).

>Why didn’t someone in the American Administration decide to copy the security systems of countries with more experience? Come to that, why aren’t the US and Europe copying El Al?

Many people did want El Al’s policies copied at the time. But a big part of adopting El Al’s policies meant profiling. And we have too many angry political mobs around here to permit profiling even though it happens anyway. Many of my colleagues who are Indian or Pakistani go to the airport an hour earlier than anyone else just so they allow time to be hassled. So why it’s not just legitimized I don’t know.

The only airport I actually admire for security and efficiency is Orlando which incidentally is the 1st airport to have the Clear Blue program. But even without Clear Blue, it’s phenomenally efficient given the same constraints as other airports but somehow manages to shove a lot of people through from all over the world many who who are wearing Mickey Mouse ears and carrying plastic swords (and I’m dead serious when I say that). And not to be a profiling jerk but if Orlando can shovel thousands of Puerto Ricans in and out of security without a a scene akin to a major broadway production, it’s got my respect!

Well, maybe I got O’Hare on a bad day, but it was by far the slowest and most inefficient airport security I’ve ever been through. If they’re not usually like that, well, fair enough. (Sorry, but I have no idea what airline I was flying with.)

JFK was alright, though.

> I don’t believe that the increase in red-tape is commensurate with safety assurance. That’s my problem with it.

God, yeah. Most of the new procedures are about being seen to be doing something rather than doing something.

> Our liquid rules though came after London’s as I recall it.

I didn’t mean that we were copying individual rules per se, more that we were copying the approach. But then we go and combine that approach with European paternalist statism, so that, while you guys can get a rule overturned by a bad public reaction, our lords and masters just tell us to fuck off if we don’t like it.

One of the reasons we’re sometimes given for new security procedures is that “the Americans” are insisting and that our airlines won’t be allowed to fly into the US if they don’t comply. I have no idea whether that’s true, but it is, now I think about it, exactly the sort of lie that’s terribly popular with our government.

And thinking about the Troubles some more, I’m now wondering whether the different approach to security then and now is down to 9/11 having happened or down to a powerful Labour government.

> The only airport I actually admire for security and efficiency is Orlando which incidentally is the 1st airport to have the Clear Blue program.

It tells you whether you’re pregnant?

>Well, maybe I got O’Hare on a bad day, but it was by far the slowest and most inefficient airport security I’ve ever been through.

I totally believe you – and a lot of people get bad days there depending on the airline and day of the week. Which is why there are some airlines I refuse to fly because of the way their particular terminal is set up (United Airlines) is asinine. The issue with O’Hare (which most passengers don’t realize) is the lack of runways and heavy, heavy ATC issues (with another major airport 50 miles away as well). My United flight was parked 20 feet away from a gate after pushing back for over an hour because ATC Tower “didn’t see you there.” Dead serious – I heard it on the ATC channel. The pilot kept asking every 15 for status and we kept getting put off. Finally they admitted that they didn’t see us there and we’d been forgotten to be put in the departure queue.

>JFK was alright, though.

Interestingly, I’ve heard nothing but bad things about JFK! But New Yorkers are just like that anyway.

>One of the reasons we’re sometimes given for new security procedures is that “the Americans” are insisting and that our airlines won’t be allowed to fly into the US if they don’t comply.

That is likely true.. If you think about it, the FAA probably has control over more airspace over densely civilized areas than any other single government body. The number of domestic flights in the US I read once (again, may not be true) surpasses all the flights in and around Europe combined. So the FAA can pretty much dictate whatever it wants and if an airline doesn’t want to comply they can feel free to fly elsewhere. But I doubt it works that dramatically. Likely what it does is puts passengers on flights who don’t comply into some version of hell upon arrival or charges fines if the airline doesn’t comply.

Interestingly, even though I’ve heard BA announce “FAA regulations require..” on flights leaving the US to dim lights on a night take-off, it also served alcohol to 18 years old and up which is illegal anywhere in the US. Yet on cruise ships (registered in other countries mind you) but leave from U.S. ports you cannot drink if you’re under 18. It’s very strange.

But the British gov’t does similar measures. I believe when my flight originated in Bologna and I want to say Orly airport, I was forced to go through special security (post security) again because my journey/connection had originated in an airport that didn’t comply with British security regulations. That happened connecting to a BA flight and an AA flight. So I’m fairly sure it was a British rule not a US airline but who knows if it was FAA or not that was driving that requirement.

> It tells you whether you’re pregnant?

Only if you drink your own piss :)

I honestly could go on for days about airline security and operations so I probably should just shut up. There’s a couple good books that I like that sort of undress the airlines for the consumer/passenger experience. It’s called The Travel Detective by Peter Greenberg. I’m not sure it’s been updated recently for the increasingly bizarre regulations but it gives a lot of insight to the strange rules of flying and traveling. It’s not really geared for the leisure traveller but I found it invaluable in my Road Warrior days.

El Al’s approach was never copied because while it’s effective it’s not very visible: security theatre demands more public displays of disaffection. El Al’s approach doesn’t scale that well either: training someone to spot a terrorist takes a lot of on-the-job practise under the watchful eye of an expert. Training someone to hassle people takes about five minutes.

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