back to article You only live twice: Once to start the installation, and the other time to finish it off

Ever opened a PC only to experience a sinking sensation when things don't look the way you'd expected? Add a twist of international spice and you have this week's Who, Me? A reader Regomised as "Noel" told us today's tale of woe, which has all the excitement of a Bond flick, just without the flirtations and gadgetry, but heavy …

  1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

    Fairly Frequent Flier

    Taking the whole family on trips to the US & Canada before emigrating to the later, I used to try & ensure the kids (Including the very nearly now ex-Mrs Oncoming Scorn) had their own personal in-flight entertainment & plug in rechargeable battery packs to last the journey & subsequent trip from/to Devon by train.

    A colleague witnessing me making these up on the fly at the 11th hour before I finished work went (A week or two after the shoe bomber debacle - The cause of why we now need to wear our best socks when flying)....stated.

    "Errrrmmm given the heightened security, do you think it's wise to go in with home made black boxes & cables?"

    As we passed through customs\security with those boxes on that occasion & others we didn't fit the suicide bomber profile.

    However you wouldn't believe the issue I had with one female indian security inspector who wouldn't believe that my OEM car key (Remote (un)lock & start) wasn't the trigger for a bomb, after four passes of the keys through the x-ray machine, one of the more enlightened female co-workers effectively said to her "FFS its a car key!".

    I'm not sure if I should have felt relieved or not on that flight, wondering if I had been used as a diversionary tactic to allow something else to slip through, when flying from Calgary to Seattle & if the plane (Or someone else's) was going to go bang & then break up about me (Them) before hitting the ground (See Icon).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: car key

      Passing through Luton airport the tray with my waterproof jacket is kicked to the manual security check.

      Security person 2 to security person 1, behind the monitor "What's wrong with this?" Security person 1 "It looks like there's a torch in the pocket" Security person 2 dutifully takes torch from pocket turns it on and off, shakes head and hands me my jacket.

      Same airport more idiot security [or I'm an idiot depending on your viewpoint] stopped me and made me buy new clear ziplock bags because mine was 10mm too big in one dimension, how much safer the skies must have been that day. #proudparents

      1. chivo243 Silver badge
        Black Helicopters

        Re: car key or Dutch House Key!

        My old door lock used to have this pointy sharp key with lots of jagged corners, I was given the raised eyebrow a few times at the TSA counter... I could only shrug and say, that's a house key!

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

          1. WonkoTheSane
            IT Angle

            Re: car key or Dutch House Key!

            A decade or so ago, I went to a Weird Al Yankovic concert in North London.

            Wandered in with my (I thought) empty backpack to carry some concert swag home in.

            The bouncers found my Gerber Wave multitool in one of the pockets and asked me why it was there.

            My response? "I'm an engineer, I always carry it".

            Gerber & backpack were instantly returned, and I was waved into the gig.


            A few years later, my carryon for a flight from LA to Liverpool via Dublin contained a brand new GPU.

            TSA didn't bat an eye, Irish Customs figured it was UK's problem & UK Customs figured Ireland had taken care of things.

            TL;DR - A brand new Nvidia 1080 for £540-ish (UK price at the time was North of £700!)

            1. GlenP Silver badge

              Re: car key or Dutch House Key!

              The bouncers found my Gerber Wave multitool in one of the pockets and asked me why it was there.

              I did similar but slightly more serious as I was entering the main court building in Bedford (UK) to appear as a witness. I'd completely forgotten about the Gerber in my suit pocket but they took one look at it, one at me (suit and tie, etc. amongst the jeans clad yoof) and said, "Stapler" while handing it back.

              I was then asked if I was appearing that day so they'd obviously taken me for a legal type person!

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: car key or Dutch House Key!

                A business meeting in Den Hague required a following overnight stay. For the crack-of-dawn return flight to London I dressed in jeans and T-shirt for comfort. Not being familiar with the Heathrow arrival paths through customs - I hesitated momentarily until I identified the "Green" channel and headed for it. At which point I realised I had been clocked by a customs officer who called me over for inspection. As soon as my suitcase was open he saw the neatly folded business suit and waved me on my way.

                Once at Oslo airport a stroppy customs officer demanded to see the contents of my belt pouch. This was passport-sized for obvious reasons of ergonomics when wearing jeans and a T-shirt. There was some interrogation before she was finally satisfied that the small packet of pills were indeed my travel-sickness tablets.

                Travelling back to the UK from Luxembourg at the end of a year's EEC project - the car was loaded with my nomadic possessions eg duvet etc. Crossing into France on the motorway I soon realised I had taken the wrong branch. Even though it was a quiet Sunday morning - a quick calculation of timing for my hovercraft ferry booking made it safer to go back to the junction in Belgium and take the correct branch rather than hack cross-country. On entering France again it was a surprise to see a heavily manned customs post - the other branch's had been deserted. Most cars were being waved though - but not me in a Range Rover with GB plates. There was a man in lots of gold braid who then supervised his minions almost taking the car apart as everything had to be opened. Talk about dirty washing in public. After about 45 minutes they allowed me to continue - and I made the ferry by the skin of my teeth. I did wonder what Maggie had done to annoy them that week.

                The company sent me to South Africa in the 1970s to sort a problem in a local office. On arrival the customs officer wanted to see any books/magazines in my possession. At which point the choice of "To Kill a Mocking Bird" paperback to while away the flight didn't seem like a good idea. No problem - apparently he was looking for banned "Playboy" or "Amateur Photographer" etc. Regular travellers knew to leave such magazines behind on the plane.


                1. Cynic_999

                  Re: car key or Dutch House Key!

                  As it was the 1970's, it's a good job you didn't have a copy of the book "Black Beauty". Which was banned in South Africa for quite some time until someone actually read it and discovered it was just about a horse. Many things were banned at that time - such as Simon & Garfunkle's, "Bridge Over Troubled Water" Which I would never have known was a reference to drug-taking unless the South African censorship board had helpfully pointed it out. (Apparently the 'silver bird' is a hypodermic needle).

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: car key or Dutch House Key!

                    It was surprising what they did and didn't allow."Amateur Photographer" wasn't banned outright - it just sometimes arrived on the magazine shelves with its front cover torn off. One particular vinyl LP record had a black marker stripe through the front cover picture of a topless women's breasts.

                    It was said that if some pictures were in softback book format - then that was banned "pr0n". If they were in a hardback then that was ok as "art". The Time Life series of books on photography were very good. In the Pretoria public library someone had gone through them excising any pubes or naked breasts with very neat razor blade cut triangles.

                    It surprised me that the deported Tom Sharpe's satirical novels about his time in South Africa were on the ordinary bookshop shelves. I say "satire" but in fact they were very close to the truth about that society.

                    The censors often missed English language items. Watching "Carry On Girls" in a cinema you could feel the puzzled silence from most of the audience - when others were laughing their socks off. One day the monochrome Africa Newsreel showed a clip of the latest London fashion shows. When a model appeared in a see-through blouse the audience audibly gasped.

                    There were brief flashes of full-frontal female nudity in one film starring Hywel Bennett. The general consensus was that the censors had let it through because the plot was making a mockery of Catholic attitudes to contraception. Normally they shredded films with their cuts - having no regard for the effect on the storyline.

                    My local boss invited me to see a drive-in movie with his family - the eldest child being about 9. I realised later that the censors had cut a quick distant shot of a topless women leaning out of a window - blink and you missed it. Nothing else was cut from that "Family" classification film. The title? "Dirty Harry".

              2. MachDiamond Silver badge

                Re: car key or Dutch House Key!

                "they took one look at it, one at me (suit and tie, etc. amongst the jeans clad yoof) and said, "Stapler" while handing it back."

                Wow, common sense being used. Whooda thunk?

          2. Hazmoid

            Re: car key or Dutch House Key!

            However my Leatherman Squirt s4 was confiscated in Singapore because I had forgotten to put it into my check in luggage :( only had a 3" blade on it

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: car key

        Glasgow airport i use the queue on the left my other half uses the one on the right. I have 2 clear bags and she has ~4. The jobsworth in my queue has a hissy fit that I've used more than 1 bag, at the same time my other half is gathering her 4 clear bags and packing back into her carry on case. I manage to cram the contents of the second bag into the first and am then told the bag must close, a bit of rearrangement and the bulging bag is sealed. All this is after the bags and contents have already been scanned. I mentioned it should be mere prominently shown that only 1 bag is permitted as i had no issue when i left heathrow & clearly his colleagues on other scanners where not adhering to the same guidelines.

        At the gate, Easy jet where giving people a hard time for their bags not fitting the size checker, i had was sure my osprey bag was compliant but they never checked my bag. On arrival back at Heathrow i checked my bag in the metal size checker and my bag didn't fit!! just a touch too wide.

      3. dajames Silver badge

        Re: car key

        Passing through Luton airport the tray with my waterproof jacket is kicked to the manual security check.

        Reminds me of flying from Aswan (I think it was) to see the very pretty temple at Abu Simbel, in Egypt.

        I had one of those sleeveless jacket thingies that seems to be mostly made of pockets, so I shoved all my metalwork (less than usual as Egyptian money is all paper) into the pockets and dumped it onto the X-Ray machine's conveyor belt.

        I watched the jacket go backwards and forwards through the machine a few times, before venturing to the puzzled looking security guy "Is there some problem?"

        "No," he said, "well ... perhaps you can tell me ... what's this?" and he gestured at his screen where something looking very like a clip of bullets could be seen in my jacket.

        "I don't know," I said, "shall we have a look?" I picked up the jacket (now out of the irradiation zone) and reached into the offending pocket and pulled out ... a packet of cough sweets.

        After that we both breathed more easily!

      4. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: car key

        "stopped me and made me buy new clear ziplock bags because mine was 10mm too big in one dimension"

        I had to pitch the remaining dregs of my sunscreen because the bottle was too big. Made it to my destination just fine, but stopped on the way back due to TSA having spent more on uniforms than training and discretion.

    2. Roger Lipscombe

      Re: Fairly Frequent Flier

      Back before everyone had a GPS-enabled supercomputer in their pocket, I was at a startup looking to make GPS kit for skiers and snowboarders. So I was taking the prototype with me on a personal skiing trip. Clear plastic box containing the antenna and a custom-built circuit board, ribbon cable to a separate battery pack. All tucked inside my helmet bag along with a roll of duct tape.

      After a few minutes of the security guard running it back and forth through the scanner (I was obviously not putting a fragile prototype in checked baggage), I finally asked "would you like me to explain what that is?"

      After explaining, I was allowed to take the prototype into the cabin. The duct tape had to be checked in.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Fairly Frequent Flier

        I once had a problem with officialdom because my winter anorak had a small but noticeable hard bulge in the upper sleeve They apparently didn't know that skiing anoraks have a built-in "avalanche" locator responder.

    3. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Fairly Frequent Flier

      After 11/9, I was flying back from Hamburg to Frankfurt, when the security found my nail scissors, they have fallen out of washbag about 3 weeks earlier and had gotten wedged under the stiffening board at the bottom of my travel bag.

      Telling them that I had flown 4 times in the last 2 weeks with them in there didn't help, I found the scissors, but I had to throw them away, before they would let me on the plane!

      More worrying was that 3 other security checks hadn't noticed them.

      The electric toothbrush also got some strange looks - on one flight, it got in a tight spot and my baggage was vibrating when I got it off the carousel.

      An ex on the other hand had her baggage stopped during loading and it lay on the tarmac, with security around it, because it was humming. She was pulled out of the waiting area and escorted to the tarmac. Let's just say, it wasn't her toothbrush, very embarrassing for all involved.

      Mine's the one with the vibrating pocket.

      1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Re: Fairly Frequent Flier

        She really should have taken the batteries out...

        1. anothercynic Silver badge

          Re: Fairly Frequent Flier

          Those kinds of devices usually don't have removable batteries... just FYI.

          1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

            Re: Fairly Frequent Flier

            So she had an electric leg shaver in her baggage, what's the big deal?


        2. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

          Re: Fairly Frequent Flier

          "Always Ready for Action"

          ...the motto of the "Third Foot and Mouth" in "Carry on Up the Khyber"

          1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

            Re: Fairly Frequent Flier

            What brand were the batteries... "Ever Ready"?

      2. keith_w

        Re: Fairly Frequent Flier

        A friend of mine once did a 3 flight segment (after 9/11) with a box knife in his pocket. He didn't notice it was there until he arrived in his hotel.

        1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

          Re: Fairly Frequent Flier

          I've been through security with a corkscrew with foil blade in my hand luggage. And separately a two litre bottle of water. Which was, of course, nonsense, because immediately the other side of the checks I could by a 2 litre bottle of water from a vending machine.

      3. anothercynic Silver badge

        Re: Fairly Frequent Flier

        I've had similar incidents... LHR T5 would scan the bag and find nothing amiss. Four times. Then I have to fly from LHR T3 with the same identical bag, nothing changed, nothing replaced, and it gets pulled aside with a rather sneery security person lecturing me. I looked at them, pointed out that the very same bag had flown out of T5 several times in the last month, and the response was "well, we're not T5, are we".

        T2, no drama. T5, no drama. T3, plenty of drama. I avoid T3 for a reason... That is why.

    4. This post has been deleted by its author

    5. Matthew Brasier

      Re: Fairly Frequent Flier

      Several years ago I went on my honeymoon to Australia, and as my wife and I are keen scuba divers, we took full sets of SCUBA equipment with us. My regulators are pretty expensive and I didn't want to trust life-maintaining equipment to airline baggage handlers so I kept mine in my hand luggage. The security staff at both Birmingham (UK) and Dubai (stop over) found the long rubber tubes with large metal attachments to be very suspicious and I was subjected to long delays at security at both airports while they performed every test they had and consulted with ever-growing chains of management. Luckily SCUBA regulators are a common sight for the security staff at all the Australian airports and they didn't even ask me to open the bag.

    6. Steve Todd

      Re: Fairly Frequent Flier

      A number of years back I was helping a friend ferry a light aircraft down from the US to the Caribbean. I was down as P2 (copilot), and after we had landed at St Martin had taken my life vest with me to the hotel (life vests being compulsory equipment for single engined flight over water). It took a while to convince security to let me airside when I tried to return to the plane next morning (oddly things like life vests and life rafts count as dangerous goods and can’t be shipped as normal freight or carried in baggage).

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I think Noel & Noel win the who, me trophy

    That’s some story from “Noel”.

    Things where certainly edgier a few decades ago, but I don’t think anyone really noticed!!

    1. KittenHuffer Silver badge

      Re: I think Noel & Noel win the who, me trophy

      When I started reading it I thought he was gonna end up somewhere really nasty .... like Crinkley Bottom!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I think Noel & Noel win the who, me trophy

        This is the second time I've heard the words "Crinkley Bottom" in two days!

        What's going on?

        1. mdubash

          Re: I think Noel & Noel win the who, me trophy

          Better than Soggy Bottom...

  3. Joe W Silver badge

    I did transport lab samples from one place (Canada) to another (LBNL, USA), early 2000s (2002/03? memory fails). Those were samples of some crystals (some ground, some monocrystalline), some man-made and with known ratios of impurities, some not. Some doped with Uranium. Then I did not know the address of the LBNL guest house when crossing the border (hey, I was young and did not know about the added security theatre).

    At least they did not look at the sample case (small glass vials, lots of powdered substances, some with "U-doped" written on them) too closely when opening my suitcase...

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Visiting Home Office Central Research Establishment from Belfast forensic lab. Just before going back someone said "Can you take these test samples back with you?". Solutions of explosives at various dilutions...

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

        A friend and his wife - both paragliders, both army reserve - checked into a flight for a paragliding holiday the day after they returned from an army explosives training course. Turns out the sniffers are quite sensitive, thank you!

        1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

          Has happened to my son, Field Artillery, several times.

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Was doing a system for underground mining.

            Arrived at the airport in the nation's capital told security that my backpack might have explosive residue, and they took it off the belt and passed it around the scanner unchecked!

            "Thanks - if it gets in the machine it tests positive for the rest of the day."

            Amazing what you can get away with by being white and nerdy and wearing a corporate logo fleece jacket.

          2. Cynic_999

            I thought everyone who has any dealing with explosives knows not to take anything that may have had the slightest contact with an explosive on a flight because it's highly likely it will be flagged by security - and to have a good shower beforehand as well. I think most farmers know to do the same wrt any handling of fertilizer.

            1. MachDiamond Silver badge

              If you do explosives for a living, there is no way you'll ever be free of residue. You wind up contaminating everything in the washer and subsequent loads.

        2. MachDiamond Silver badge

          "checked into a flight for a paragliding holiday the day after they returned from an army explosives training course. Turns out the sniffers are quite sensitive, thank you!"

          I heard a tale of a mining engineer coming back the US from South American and didn't have a chance to do his laundry before catching his flight. It took several hours before Homemade Security thought to ask what he did for a living. They didn't want to tell him why they had him locked in a little room and being asked rather odd questions. The little doggies are quite sensitive too.

      2. Claptrap314 Silver badge

        Sounds like someone was pranking you.

  4. Tim99 Silver badge

    Not just in exotic places

    I was the front line IT person for some scientists and engineers at a large UK public utility. One Monday morning I had a call from a department who said that "nothing is working". Obviously I got the blame as I had been in there on Friday updating their network and installing their new kit (a couple of ATs and XTs). Two computers wouldn’t boot, another seemed to come up but nothing showed on the screen and a couple of the rest gave various ominous boot chimes. After a brief investigation I realized that the bad computers all had bits missing. Someone over the weekend had taken stuff from most of them - Enough to build two complete XTs with Hercules graphics cards and an AT with VGA, and 3 10-Base2 network cards. I guess they sourced the cases and monitors from elsewhere. We could never prove it, but we think the bits went out with a cleaner or security person. I wondered why they hadn’t nicked the complete PCs, but a colleague thought that "It would be too obvious, or maybe they thought that no-one would notice?".

    1. KittenHuffer Silver badge

      Re: Not just in exotic places

      Been there done that!

      I mean I've also been called to a non-w**king machine, only to find that some small but expensive components had vanished, like an old oak table!

      1. Cynic_999

        Re: Not just in exotic places

        Sherlock & Watson were on a camping holiday. Sherlock woke Watson in the middle of the night and asked, "Watson, what do you observe?"

        Watson groggily awoke, looked around and said, "I observe the stars and the Moon".

        "And what do you deduce from that observation?" Holmes persisted.

        Watson sighed, and said, "I deduce that it is a clear night. The Moon is in its 3rd cycle, the constellation Scorpio is ascendent. What do you deduce, Holmes?"

        Sherlock replied, "Watson, I deduce that someone has stolen our fucking tent!"

    2. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Not just in exotic places - not just computers

      In the late 70s, my father went to a trade show in Milan. They were showing off a carpet paternoster (a lot of rolls of carpet mounted in a machine so that they could be rolled around until the one you want comes to the front).

      The machine arrived in Milan and was erected. Then the box with the carpets arrived. It was a long, wide and heavy box. The porter from the trade show drove up in a little forklift and was about to lift up the box. My father and his team were waving their hands and shouting "NO", because the box weighed several tonnes and was much heavier than the little forklift could have managed...

      The driver ignored them and lifted the box down from the lorry with ease!

      They quickly ran up to it and had a look. Someone had David Copperfielded the contents. The customs' seals were all still there and intact, but the box was empty!

    3. Mast1

      Re: Not just in exotic places

      Allegedly, a £100k (1980s prices) bit of large broadcast equipment was sent to a developing country, but went missing at the receiving airport. The equipment was reportedly found at a roadside, but minus its protective wooden packaging. A lesson there how "perceived value" depends on your perspective.

      1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

        Re: Not just in exotic places

        It's not just perspective. Some things are much harder to fence than others...

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not just in exotic places

      A retired relative told the story of shipping some big pallets of product into another country via a small airport. Frequently the pallets would arrive with the top several layers of boxes missing. After a bit of detective work, they realized the big pallets were loaded into a big plane at the origin airport, then a layover in an intermediate airport, then flown to the final airport. The final airport couldn't handle larger planes, and the full-height pallets wouldn't fit in the smaller planes, so the top layers were being removed at the intermediate airport and subsequently lost.

      Easy fix - don't stack the boxes so high!

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Not just in exotic places

        "so the top layers were being removed at the intermediate airport and subsequently lost."

        This is why it's a good idea to check your itinerary from home to full stop. If you are packing a case full of expensive and delicate camera gear, you many not be able to get it on a small plane as hand luggage.

    5. Cynic_999

      Re: Not just in exotic places

      There have been many thefts of RAM sticks from office PCs that really has gone unnoticed.

    6. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: Not just in exotic places

      In a previous life working in the bar and club industry we supplied music and video system PCs to the venues. One venue was installed, testing and worked and signed off. Come Tuesday the PC failed to boot anymore. Turns out that somebody has opened the PC, stolen the memory sticks, taken the hard drive, probably found that it didn't contain what they wanted (our content was encrypted as per the PPL/VPL requirements) so they remounted the hard drive using 1/2" wood screws. Don't know why they bothered to remount it... but the drive never worked afterwards with screws piercing the platters.

    7. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Not just in exotic places

      "I wondered why they hadn’t nicked the complete PCs"

      The case and power supply are big, heavy and worthless. The CPU and RAM you can shove in a pocket.

    8. Slow Joe Crow

      Re: Not just in exotic places

      I ran into a similar issue at a large tech company in early 1998 or so. One night some clever thieves who were almost certainly employees went through two floors of a building stealing every one of the then new 100Mhz frontside bus Pentium II chips and every stick of 100Mhz memory they could grab while leaving behind the older 66Mhz parts and all the cases drives and AFAIK graphics cards. For several years after that desktop PCs had a steal strap padlocked around the case.

  5. Little Mouse Silver badge

    Sadly, no international jet-settng for me

    The most "exciting" cross-border incident for me was when my always-optimistic colleague only brought an out-of-date driving licence for ID for an internal UK flight.

    "Don't worry. It'll be fine."

    And it was.

    1. diguz

      Re: Sadly, no international jet-settng for me

      yeah, i know that feeling.

      Until a couple years ago, also here in Italy you could fly with your (valid) driving licence as ID.

      It was fine for all airlines, except a not-so-cheap-as-they-would-imply irish one. They didn't let me board the bloody plane even if all the airport staff told them it was ok, given that the flight was domestic...

      I stopped flying with them, even if this meant paying double for the same route.

      And i am thankful for my job that some years later made me able to afford a car... especially in those times, when being alone in your car is more healthy than flying with some idiots who think that face-masks are for clowns...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Sadly, no international jet-settng for me

        Depends on your definition of "more healthy". Travelling alone in a car reduces the chance of a Covid19 infection. But flying is far far safer than driving. You're much more likely to have an unhealthy crash in a car than in a plane.

        1. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Sadly, no international jet-settng for me

          yes but.....

          You can be a safe driver and go a long time without a major accident. Even a lifetime. The figures I see are based on miles traveled. It can be a little misleading. I also think the stress of flying these days has to be taken into account. Chances are really good that if I'm taking tools, parts and computers with me, it's all much more likely to arrive with me if I drive. There is also a big difference between driving on A roads verses major motorways and driving during the day (no fog, snow, torrential rain) or at night in a driving rain storm. Friday nights after the pubs close is another time of day to avoid.

      2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Re: Sadly, no international jet-settng for me

        I have found that, once you have added on the hidden extras (like paying for your hand luggage), that the "not-as-expensive-as-you-might-assume" Irish carrier is not actually much more expensive than the "not-so-cheap-as-they-would-imply" Irish carrier, when flying to Ireland at any rate. Plus you get an in-flight meal, and no rigmarole of "squash your hand-luggage into this tiny cage or pay €50". I should expect that similar considerations apply when flying to most countries they cover, plus you get to fly from the same terminal as all the grown-ups, not from the shed in a field round the back of the airport that is also shared by the "curiously-orange-but-not-quite-as-unpleasant" carrier.

        1. anothercynic Silver badge

          Re: Sadly, no international jet-settng for me

          This is why you make these sums... "what are all the hidden costs, and how much more does the 'you have to travel to this airport far out in the countryside with no public transport' detour add"

          For me, in the end, it would usually work out cheaper to take ye olde British Airways to where I needed to go rather than said "not-as-expensive-as-you-might-assume" Irish carrier, or its very orange English equivalent... At least BA would give you a lecture on your excess baggage but still check it in, you would get a meal on board (that's *before* Alex Cruz took the axe to economy class meals), and the service was generally good.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Sadly, no international jet-settng for me

            "This is why you make these sums... "what are all the hidden costs, and how much more does the 'you have to travel to this airport far out in the countryside with no public transport' detour add""

            1st cycle trip to Europe my mates suggested i book easy jet, add sports equipment (bike bag) and check in a bag too. As was ~1 month before travel i booked asap to ensure i got a flight. moments after booking i checked BA and saw that i could have saved ~ £80 plus food and better flight times.

            2nd trip i had more time to check flights and booked BA economy, upgraded to business with my miles and enjoyed free bike bag travel, 2 items of checked luggage,lounge access, free booze & food onboard, great flight times, booked in row 1 and saved ~£100 over easy jet.

            Always always check the full costs and check the competitors.

            which i did asap as it was a late booking, moments after

            1. MachDiamond Silver badge

              Re: Sadly, no international jet-settng for me

              ""This is why you make these sums... "what are all the hidden costs, and how much more does the 'you have to travel to this airport far out in the countryside with no public transport' detour add"""

              I did this for a trip to a trade show in the US between First Class seats (neither of us are narrow enough to fit in economy (wide shoulders and tall, not obese)), the train and driving. The only advantage to flying was travel time. The cost was equal among the three and we figured that taking the train would be far more comfortable. With a room, meals and non-alcoholic drinks are included. The way out would be sightseeing and on the way back we'd have a nice couple of days to go through brochures, notes and websites for the items we looked at. I always looked at flying as a whole day. Getting to the airport a couple of hours early, the flight and faffing about with hire cars at the other end takes at least half the day for a flight only lasting an hour. Never mind delays. I don't expect to ever fly again, but it I did, It would have to be many hundreds of miles or more. Oceans are a problem too when driving, but who knows when traveling internationally is going to be viable again.

      3. Cynic_999

        Re: Sadly, no international jet-settng for me

        You would much prefer to be crushed in a road accident than infected with coronavirus (from which you will probably make a complete recovery from in a couple of weeks)?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Sadly, no international jet-settng for me

          Probability of being in a serious car accident is MUCH lower than probability of contracting COVID by being in a confined space with a bunch of other people for a couple hours.

          1. Cynic_999

            Re: Sadly, no international jet-settng for me


            Probability of being in a serious car accident is MUCH lower than probability of contracting COVID by being in a confined space with a bunch of other people for a couple hours.


            Not sure about that being a fact (I recently read that the aircon system on an aircraft lowers the risk of infection considerably), but my main point was about the probable consequences of the two, which for the vast majority of people will be a *lot* worse for a road accident.

            1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

              Re: Sadly, no international jet-settng for me

              What with the introduction of seatbelts, squashy front parts, and giant marshmallows installed in most modern cars, serious road accidents used to be much worse than they are nowadays. Having them is how some people make a living apparently, cheaper than those strange sci fi dolls I suppose.

    2. Manolo

      Re: Sadly, no international jet-settng for me

      I was once on my way to Calais when near Dunkerque it occurred to me I had left both my drivers licence and my passport in the office. The only photo ID I had with me was my hockey referee card. British customs let me on the ferry though. Must have been my trusty Rover 800. Thanks chaps!

      (And this happened post 9-11)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Sadly, no international jet-settng for me

        “The only photo ID I had with me was my hockey referee card. British customs let me on the ferry though. Must have been my trusty Rover 800“

        Returning from spain a few years back the official checking passports before entering the departure are spent a good few minutes trying to scrape my photo off my passport. I asked if there was some problem and he just persisted. As I understand it, when the passport is scanned a photo is displayed on the terminal that should match me and what’s in the passport, regardless he was digging away, eventually grudgingly letting me through.

        I never saw him do that to any of the others passing through his gate, just me.

        Some people get an auto “carry on” from authorities, others get extra scrutiny.

        1. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Sadly, no international jet-settng for me

          "Some people get an auto “carry on” from authorities, others get extra scrutiny."

          And there's the problem. They can't "profile" as that would be racist so they do the opposite and I get selected for "random" extra screening every leg of every flight. No rhyme or reason. I must be on a list which is really odd since I'm no activist, felon or international man of mystery.

          If they are going to pull somebody out at random and give them a good feel up and question period, there should be a good reason for it. Being random doesn't do much good when you are looking for the haystack in the field that "might" have a needle in it. It's just theatre to impress the yokels.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sadly, no international jet-settng for me

      Why would there be a problem?

      The shit airlines that insist on photo ID only care that the name on the ID matches the one on the boarding pass and the self-loading freight holding that boarding pass looks like the picture in the photo ID.

      They claim this is for security reasons. Which is bollocks. It's revenue protection. Ryanair (spit!), Sleazyjet, etc don't want someone to give their ticket to somebody else. And to stop travel agents (remember them?) buying up all the really, really cheap tickets and then reselling them.

      BTW there are other equally shit airlines that don't require photo ID for internal flights.

      1. anothercynic Silver badge

        Re: Sadly, no international jet-settng for me

        Correct. Internal flights do *not* require passport or 'valid' driving licence. They require photo ID that proves you are you. Said low cost airlines have the regulations such that there's no difference between local/internal and international flights. It makes it easier for gate staff and airline personnel.

        At least most gate staff at larger UK airports understand the concept that a flight from Gatwick to Belfast or Luton to Edinburgh *doesn't* need a passport...

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Sadly, no international jet-settng for me

          "a flight from Gatwick to Belfast or Luton to Edinburgh *doesn't* need a passport..."


        2. Cynic_999

          Re: Sadly, no international jet-settng for me

          There are no government regulations or laws to say that internal flights require any ID at all. However the *airport* may require ID before allowing you airside, and individual carriers can make whatever rules they like.

          Just as there are no laws that you need to have a passport to *leave* the UK. But if you are refused entry at the destination, the carrier that brought you there must take you back at no charge, so it is in the carrier's interest to ensure that you are not likely to be refused entry. Which is why any required visas are also checked before you get a boarding pass.

          1. druck Silver badge

            Re: Sadly, no international jet-settng for me

            I flew a light aircraft in to Blackpool about 12 years ago, we left the airfield via the fire gate and went off to see the sights. On returning we couldn't get back in the same way because they had just started international flights with Jet2, so we had to go in via the terminal. The staff on the help desk had no idea what to do with people travelling on a light aircraft, so sent us through departures. The security people wanted to see passports to let us through, which we didn't have only travelling from Gloucester, after much debate they agreed to let us through on our pilots licences which they had clearly never seen an example of before. As an added bonus they insisted our flight bags went through the x-ray machine and confiscated the contents our water bottles, but left me with a small bottle of flammable meths used to clean charts. We left sitting in the departure lounge until they sent a car to shuttle us back to our plane.

            1. MachDiamond Silver badge

              Re: Sadly, no international jet-settng for me

              "just started international flights with Jet2, so we had to go in via the terminal."

              You didn't go through your (or another) FBO that was close to where you parked? I've only found it a problem if you have to walk very far down the flight line. BTW, on coded gates, the code is often written on the field side so if you have an angle mirror, you can read the combo from the other side. That's so incoming crew aren't stuck on the field.

        3. R Soul Bronze badge

          Re: Sadly, no international jet-settng for me

          Er, no. BA doesn't do any sort of photo ID checking for UK-only flights. Neither did the long-dead BMI.

          Photo ID proves nothing - certainly not that you are you. Photo ID can be faked - ask any college kid in Trumpland. Unless that ID card is tied to DNA samples, fingerprints, other biometrics and the mother of all databases that were New Liebour's wet dream.

          Having gate staff and airline personnel carry out usually needless checks on photo ID actually makes their job harder. It at least doubles boarding time.It's even worse when some doddery granny has put their purse with said ID at the bottom of one of their carry-on bags. Or was it in their coats?

        4. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Sadly, no international jet-settng for me

          "Correct. Internal flights do *not* require passport or 'valid' driving licence. "

          In the US they do. I've had a DL for ages (not admitting the number) and now they want to see my birth certificate again and several other items to issue me with a "real" ID. I don't expect to fly again so I'm not bothering. I've been around the world many times and friends from overseas are more than welcome to visit me now. I'll even give them a nice bed and prepare some awesome food.

    4. Roger Lipscombe

      Re: Sadly, no international jet-settng for me

      A colleague of mine once did Germany and back (late 90's, pre-Euro) with a Westminster resident's card. To be fair, we'd been doing that trip every week for about 6 months by that point, so they probably recognised us...

    5. Evil Auditor Silver badge

      Re: Sadly, no international jet-settng for me

      I used to fly frequently within the Schengen Area, i.e. two and more flights per week. Except when occasionally flying with EasyJet, I never got asked for ID.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Sadly, no international jet-settng for me

        >I used to fly frequently within the Schengen Area, .....I never got asked for ID.

        Did we fight centuries of european wars for nothing ?

    6. SloppyJesse

      Re: Sadly, no international jet-settng for me

      In the olden days of humans checking passports I flew to France with one 6 months out of date. The return check-in noticed.

      "Your passport expired 6 months ago. How long have you been on holiday?" she asked.

      "2 weeks"...

      She said I could fly since the destination was in the issuing country. No idea if that's a real rule.

      1. G.Y.

        real rule Re: Sadly, no international jet-settng for me

        It is a real rule. My wife once entered Israel on an expired Israeli passport; was told by the consulate (ahead of time) there would be no problem; and there was none.

    7. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

      Re: Sadly, no international jet-settng for me

      Happened to the wife on vacation. TSA was fine with it, the guy behind the counter at the rental car place spotted it. Wouldn't rent her a car. Wouldn't rent the car to me in her stead, because it had been reserved in her name. As we were walking away, he finally saw reason and rented the car to me.


    8. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Sadly, no international jet-settng for me

      "The most "exciting" cross-border incident for me was when my always-optimistic colleague only brought an out-of-date driving licence for ID for an internal UK flight."

      In many cases, just because the licence is no longer valid for driving doesn't make the ID details on it any less valid. Although many jobsworths will try to make it so. My legally valid until I'm 70 pink paper driving licence has been almost refused as ID a number of times by people too young to know about them, even in a car hire place where they should have known better. Luckily there's almost always an older manager or other higher up around put the kids right :-)

    9. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: Sadly, no international jet-settng for me

      RyanAir refused to let me board a Common Travel Area flight to Ireland without a passport. So I took the ferry instead, they waved me through with my 30-year-old Hong Kong ID card.

      1. 2+2=5 Silver badge

        Re: Sadly, no international jet-settng for me

        > RyanAir refused to let me board a Common Travel Area flight to Ireland without a passport. So I took the ferry instead, they waved me through with my 30-year-old Hong Kong ID card.

        I didn't know there was a ferry from HK island to Dublin. Learn something new everyday.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Sadly, no international jet-settng for me

          >I didn't know there was a ferry from HK island to Dublin.

          It's a major part of Chris Graylings post-Brexit trade plan

          1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

            Re: Sadly, no international jet-settng for me

            Boris Johnson favours building a bridge instead.

            Yes, I know that Hong Kong to Dublin is a bit of a stretch. So are the Belfast Bridge, the Garden Bridge, and Boris Island International, which apparently was compared unflatteringly to the grand thinking typical of that famous Second World War leader, Adolf Hitler.

            EDIT: Wrong triangle, I meant the "joke" one not the "black helicopter" one - hmm I dunno though.

        2. Paul Cooper

          Re: Sadly, no international jet-settng for me

          I didn't know there was a ferry from HK island to Dublin. Learn something new everyday.

          Star Ferries will get you anywhere!

        3. Aussie Doc

          Re: Sadly, no international jet-settng for me

          What, you never use google maps for directions before?

          Fold up's in my pocket -------------------->

      2. Kubla Cant Silver badge

        Re: Sadly, no international jet-settng for me

        A few years ago we were off skiing for Christmas in Austria, myself, two friends and their two teenage sons. All fine until the final passport check at the gate, where the Thomson Air jobsworth told us the younger son couldn't board the plane because he had a US passport which expired in less than three months, and apparently the Schengen zone won't allow that (why?).

        His father undertook to indemnify the airline if he was refused entry, but no. So they unloaded his bag from the hold and the poor boy prepared for a lonely Christmas at home.

        On arrival at Innsbruck we rushed round to the Border Police station, where they confirmed that although this rule existed, they would never enforce it in a situation like this. So we spent the first few days of our skiing holiday frantically arranging another flight and confirming with the operations department of the airline that he would be allowed into Austria. The mobile phone bill was nearly as expensive as the flight.

        Moral: avoid Crystal Ski and Thomson (or whatever they call themselves now) like the plague.

  6. Conundrum1885

    SImilar experience

    Went to the UK and back, on the way via Maplin.

    Maybe it wasn't such a good idea to approach the helpful folks at airport and check that "there isn't any problem with my case full of goodies"

    Oh I got through UK customs just fine but got bag searched and interrogated at the other end.

    Fortunately kept the receipt(s) but the poor Customs fellow wasn't too happy.

    "Whats this bundle of wires?"

    "What are these strange pieces of rectangular fibreglass with black film on them?"

    "What is this box marked "Video decoder" ?

    An hour later.. !!!

    1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Re: SImilar experience

      Ah, not this Maplin... don't really want to go to a place called Foulness...

  7. Martin an gof Silver badge

    Shoulda gone for something simpler...

    I was working in ILR at about the time when computer-based digital audio editing was becoming popular. Never did anything quite as exciting as Noel but then again we weren't exactly swimming in cash.

    We did look at systems such as SADiE (see the advert on p4 of this PDF), even auditioned one in a studio setting, but found that for a system based around the fastest '486 currently available with the largest discs on the most expensive SCSI interface and with a proprietary audio card, it was remarkably fragile with frustrating bugs which often required restarting the software, sometimes required rebooting the machine and occasionally resulted in lost work - edits, if not actual audio. Other systems (e.g. Avid) used similar technology and were similarly pricey.

    Instead we invested in a system called Soundscape which was a stand-alone box attached to any computer which could run Windows 3. It was a fraction of the price and seemed to be a lot more stable and mature. Not only would the interface run on a '286 if necessary (I think we ran ours on a '386SX) but it used IDE discs in hot-swap bays rather than SCSI, so it was a lot more affordable to have a disc-based library. It had the major advantage of keeping audio signals very well away from the "noisy" environment inside a computer case, and being a bog-standard 2U (IIRC) rack mount unit with proper XLRs directly on the back panel rather than a "breakout box", which made installing the thing a lot simpler.

    To get back vaguely on topic, in "Noel"'s case, anyone opening the box would not have found hardware suitable for ripping off - the external box was DSP-based and even in Moscow in those days, the '286 or '386SX-based interface computer would have been distinctly passé and not particularly desirable.

    Of course, in the end, both companies went bust though I gather the SADiE brand is still going...


    1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: Shoulda gone for something simpler...

      Wow, I'd forgotten about Soundscape. They were amazing systems for the time.

  8. Gerhard den Hollander


    I've hand carried 2 shuttle PCs (shoebox sized PCs that were all the rage in the early 2000s ... at least with one of our BMs) along with a VPN firewall along with my own laptop (all as carry on luggage) through 3 countries in the Middle East and Africa (the kind of countries where alcohol is no allowed) (the joys of a round trip where they were needed at the penultimae destination) without a hitch, but arriving at the final destination I got held at gunpoint (the only time in my life I've stared down the barrel of a gun) because they wanted to inspect the wallet with 2 dozen CDs I'd brought along with me ...

    All obviously self-burned, all backup copies of the original installation media with the product keys written on them with black marker ... and while we did have volume licenses for all these products, and so these were technically probably not illegal i was not really looking forward to having to explain this to a big guy with an even bigger gun and an even bigger moustache

    Turned out the only thing they were checking was if I wasn't smuggling dirty movies into the country , and after going trough the ``no it's not movies, it's software '' line a few times the guy waved me through ....

    Thankfully Dubai did allow the serving of beer in Hotels ...

  9. John Robson Silver badge

    Colleague of mine

    About 25 years back took hi laptop bag through security for the first time.

    There was a pair of scissors stitched between the stiffening plate and the cushioning - wasn't such a pretty laptop case after that

    1. PerlyKing

      Re: concealed items

      A few years ago I flew to Poland and back to the UK with a Victorinox SwissCard (but not translucent) in my hand luggage, having checked with the airline that the ~4cm knife blade would be OK. And it was with UK security, but coming back the Polish security officer didn't like it. I explained to him that it was fine according to the airline's regulations, at which point he thought for a second and then told me that because the blade fits into the card it is "a concealed weapon". I could see I wasn't going to win the argument so he kept the knife and I kept the rest of the card.

      The funny thing was that also in my hand luggage was an ebook reader in a metal case. My daughter had an identical device in a fabric case which she had to take out and demonstrate in both directions; I'm guessing that the metal case made mine look like a boring rectangle instead of an electronic gadget.

      1. A K Stiles

        Re: concealed items

        Flew UK to Brisbane three or four years back, via Dubai. Boarded the delayed plane in Birmingham no problem. Arrived in Dubai to my connecting flight having already departed so was shunted out to a hotel for the night. Back in through Dubai security the following morning, bit of a bag search but no problem. Arrived in Brisbane and out into the world, no problem.

        Heading home a fortnight later, arrive at Brisbane domestic for internal flight to Perth - hold up, what's this in your wallet? One of those metal tool cards with the various size hex holes punched in it and one corner shaped to form a flat-blade screwdriver, with the internal edge slightly bevelled to form a paper knife (maybe 12mm long?) "No no no sir, there is no possible way you could be permitted to take that on a plane. Into the bin it goes!" Roll eyes, shrug and point out that I know it won't make a difference but it's only there 'cos I forgot I'd had it there for maybe 3 years already, so it'd been through several airports without a raised eyebrow...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Colleague of mine

      A number of decades ago, a relative was working at an ordinance testing facility in the US. A particularly disliked co-worker had to head out on a business trip in a hurry, and sternly warned the whole department not to touch his bag. Challenge accepted.

      He returned a little later, snatched up the bag - and nearly tore the handles off due to the weight of a couple of lead bricks inside. After fussing at the folks around, he left again.

      He returned a little later, more gingerly tried to pick up the bag, and again it was way too heavy. It took a while to get all the lead shot poured out of the tiny slits they had made in the lining. Cue more "colorful metaphors" and yelling at the department. And then he left again. (Apparently not too bright...)

      He returned a little later, gingerly lifted the bag - no problem. Everyone was grinning but wouldn't explain why. He took a quick look in the bag, but couldn't find anything amiss, so he headed for his flight.

      When the bag went through the scanner, the tech promptly stopped it (and him), opened it up, flipped through all his clothing, ran the bag through again, removed all the contents and ran JUST the bag through, then started sending through one item of clothing at a time. Finding the offending shirt, the tech unfolded the shirt and pulled out a silhouette of a gun, cut from sheet metal.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Colleague of mine

        Had that once on a transit through one of America's squarer states.

        The security for the outgoing flight found my Leatherman and demanded to know where I had got it.

        Well I obviously forget it and left it in my laptop bag

        You can't have - it wouldn't have been allowed through security on the incoming flight

        Ok so either they missed it, or I met my secret contact in the secure side of your airport and they gave me this deadly weapon

        In the end I lost the tool , and the argument.

  10. Manolo
    Black Helicopters

    Gun shells and dive gear

    The year was 2003, so 9/11 still fresh in everyone's memory. On a trip to Western Australia I had shot a rifle on a farm. Kept the shells (two or three) as a souvenir and had them in my carry-on. Mind you, they were spent, so basically just brass tubes at that point. Checking in in Perth was no problem, but it got me nearly arrested in Singapore and it delayed the flight for an hour. (Kind of them to wait for me, though)

    When I fly with my dive gear, I usually have my regulators and dive computer in my carry-on, because I don't like them to be handled roughly. All those hoses and electronics make for an interesting image on the X-ray though, so the bag often gets sent to inspection. Where it usually just serves as a nice conversation starter.

    1. fozzy73

      Re: Gun shells and dive gear

      Dive gear: Sharm el Sheikh airport security didn't recognize a first stage.... i needed that kilo out of my checked in bag and had three in my carrry on, took them 5 divers smiling and saying "yes" to believe me.

      1. MiguelC Silver badge
        Big Brother

        Re: Gun shells and dive gear

        Not the experience I had there, it seemed to me that security guards were well acquainted with all kinds of diving gear.

        But a friend decided he had to check his DSLR (as they were signs telling all 'video' equipment had to be registered on entry) so we waited almost 2 hours while he was explaining to security why and what he was trying to film in Egypt and that he wasn't an Israeli agent and whatnot...

        1. Manolo
          Black Helicopters

          Re: Gun shells and dive gear

          An acquaintance was working as a dive instructor in Egypt and went on a side trip to Israel, with his dive kit. At Israeli customs he had to turn on his dive computer and match it with his dive log. (And most instructors don't bother keeping paper logs anymore when they have done a few hundreds of dives)

          They take paranoia to the next level there!

          1. baud

            Re: Gun shells and dive gear

            I've heard that the precise questions asked at Israeli customs is more to see how the traveller will react, if it's a cover story or not

    2. PerlyKing

      Re: Gun shells

      I once knew a bit of a gun-nut who flew from the UK to South Africa with (among other things) a .44 Magnum pistol (this was a while ago). When he declared it at SA customs he thought he was in trouble when the customs officer called his supervisor, but it turned into a "What's the recoil like? Can I have a go?" session.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Gun shells

        One of the side effects of 9/11 is that a lot of guns now travel in checked baggage by photographers and film makers. If you declare a firearm then your luggage gets put on the plane under armed guard and stored in a secure room at the destination. Much safer than trusting $100K of gear to the baggage thiefs.

        If you don't want to walk around with real guns it works for a replica or starter pistol or even the lone part of a rifle with the serial number on it.

        1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

          Re: Gun shells

          One of the side effects of 9/11 is that a lot of guns now travel in checked baggage by photographers and film makers. If you declare a firearm then your luggage gets put on the plane under armed guard and stored in a secure room at the destination. Much safer than trusting $100K of gear to the baggage thiefs.

          Lovely example of making the system work for you by using the law of unintended consequences.

        2. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Gun shells

          "One of the side effects of 9/11 is that a lot of guns now travel in checked baggage by photographers and film makers. If you declare a firearm then your luggage gets put on the plane under armed guard and stored in a secure room at the destination. Much safer than trusting $100K of gear to the baggage thiefs."

          The bag is not identified or put under guard, but you are required to have it in a hard sided case with a good lock that only you have a key for. It can't be a case inside of another piece of luggage. The bonus is your bag is inspected at a dedicated station while you watch and you then lock it up with a real lock rather than a TSA lock that a good yank will open. It is a good way to be able to lock up valuable gear and not have it rummaged through by minimum wage flunkies out of your sight.

          disclaimer: US travel only. YMMV internationally so it's good to take advice from somebody that's gone through the process before. You aren't gong to have any luck trying to get a handgun into the UK this way.

          Note: The gun can be a cheap piece of shite as long as it's reasonable that it 'could' be fired. The lower receiver of an AR style rifle is legally considered a firearm.

      2. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        Re: Gun shells

        Last my niece, who shoots air rifles at international competitive level, had a hell of a time trying to explain to UK customs that just because it read the word "rifle" it was not a "gun" (legally defined) and therefore it was fine for her to take it through in secured, checked luggage. She had checked with the airline a few times, including their head office and so on, who all stated that they had never come across this before - until they came across a more useful colleage who had. Returning to Australia they didn't bat an eyelid at the declaration.

        1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

          Re: Gun shells

          Maybe if it wasn't called an AIR rifle, as well.

          How about "Pneumatic... accelerator"? That sounds less, er, gunny. But maybe like something from a mad scientist. Or a thing for sex. Or both. I'll stop talking now.

  11. IT's getting kinda boring

    Nothing too exciting, but on a trip to Munich I got stopped because my bag was full of Ethernet cable and a small switch (I was on my way to set up some systems for a small conference). Airport security got a little excited until I unpacked it and showed them. The only other thing I had was clothing (and I am pretty sure my boxers weren't explosive)!

    1. Roger Lipscombe

      Flying into Vancouver on a business jaunt:

      Them: Can you take the electronics out of your bag, please?

      Me: Are you sure? It's pretty much *all* electronics.

      Them: Yes.

      Two laptops (netbooks, fortunately), a couple of USB/serial converters, an ethernet switch, and the associated power supplies and assorted cables... Took me a while to cram it all back into the bag.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Local UK airport to NI in 199x- same as you, to set up stuff for conference.

      Was warned by my then boss, that I will be stopped - so arrived early. Had the bags searched and allowed to proceed. Was then stopped twice more for "random" checks. The second customs bod recognised me from the first time - still had to go through it all.

      Don't remember any problems in NI - apart from the taxi driver who jumped out of the car to ask for directions to the hotel I was going to.

      Don't do the foreign stuff any more - let my colleagues fight over who wants to go to China.

      Did have a recent job interview for a service engineer - sales monkey was trying to sell the travel abroad as a chance to see the world. Yeah, right. In my experience it's always airport > hotel > office > airport.

  12. David Neil


    1998, sent over from Glasgow to Newtonards to do a network survey on a factory - someone wanted to know length of the cable runs etc.

    Pleasant day trip, first time over there so my immediate impression of the bunting was "oh must be a Gala day coming up" - i realised my mistake about 5 seconds later.

    Everyone was very nice, lots of people keen to understand what football team I supported and did I know such and such ( I lived in Ayrshire at the time, if you know, you know).

    All went well till I got back to Belfast City and my carry on went into the xray. Seems various networking gear and cables, a fluke multimeter, assorted screwdiver sets and the like, all looked a bit odd to the nice man. His even bigger, grumpier friend with the gun across his chest invited me into a side room for a chat with some people in suits.

    Reader, my arse collapsed....

  13. big_D Silver badge

    Not me...

    but one client I worked for had a contract for the Angolan election in the early 90s.

    I was "lucky", I couldn't find my passport, so I didn't get to go out there. The team was put up in a villa in huge grounds. The security guards took them outside into the garden and pointed to an imaginary line 50M into the grounds - "go beyond that point and you are on your own!" Was the simple statement from the Uzi wielding security guard...

    We had no-end of problems with email (cc:mail over modem onto a Novell server at HQ in the UK). For some reasons the connection always failed and we were getting increasingly irritated phone calls from the team on-site and from management. In the end, we attached a phone to the modem and listened in as they tried to connect.

    "Bleeeep, blurgh, bleeep, CLICK!"

    A polite call to the Angolan government to ask them to pretty please not listen in on the line, it was only being used for email and they were welcome to come and inspect the laptop at any time they wanted. The equipment they had was so old, it was causing a loud enough click to cause the modem to drop the connection.

    The election went well, well, it was fair at least. But the rebels weren't happy when the government won. The team was evacuated to the airport, laying on the floor in the back of Toyota Land Cruisers and Land Rovers, whilst the security hung out the windows and shot back at the rebels...

    We also did the election in Serbia... Funny, after the elections were over, my passport miraculously re-appeared!

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Re: Not me...

      >> Beep, beep, click...

      Back in the day, the Beeb had an issue with the feed to Radio 3 dropping by 20dB a couple of minutes before six every day, then getting better a couple of minutes later.

      Eventually traced to a GPO engineer hanging a pair of low impedance cans across the line to listen to the cricket scores...

  14. Jay 2

    Back before it was possible to cram video recording stuff into something the size of some matchboxes or in a phone you needed to be a bit more enterprising for how you captured your video on the move. So for skiing I had a contraption which was a bullet camera, mic and remote all feeding to my rucksack which contained camcorder and a tuppaware tub full of batteries/cables... Somehow I was never questioned over dragging all that lot through customs etc.

    On a long weekend to Budapest I had crammed my rucksack with a camera, phone, iPod and all the OTT charging/connectivity cables etc. When the rucksack went though the x-ray scanner the operator looked at the screen, looked and me, and then turned to his mate and said "James Bond". I'm sure Bond would have less obvious sky kit...

  15. ARGO

    Tel Aviv

    A colleague of mine once had to take two laptops through Tel Aviv airport - his own, plus a dedicated one for the software we were testing. Clearly highly suspicious. Even with all the right paperwork, that got him half an hour in the special security area.

    1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Tel Aviv

      Hell, *I* got more than that when I tried to *leave* Israel after a 40 hour visit in the 90s to do some EMI testing on a product with our Israeli partner. Sudden visit, so no "invitation letter". Coming in, I had to pay duty on the card..."you'll get it back on the way out"...luckily, they took my company credit card. Then there was the 1/2 hour chat with the nice security guy who wanted to see my lab notebook, business card, and an explanation of why I was there. Same thing on the way out, only it was 45 minutes.

      At least I managed to get business class on the way home.

      1. hittitezombie

        Re: Tel Aviv

        Flights in and out of Tel Aviv was never fun nor easy for me. Very lengthy questioning every single time. I must have been triggering something with the behaviour-monitoring-shit-that-doesn't-actually-work guys.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    friend of mine

    A friend of mine doing an installation in Israel hailed from Northern Ireland. This was about 2000. Leaving that country, with his engineering bag (he had no issue going in) in hand luggage, got the full-cavity, windowless room check on the way out.

    Talk about itchy trigger finger..... Needless to say, he wouldn't go back. He is the CEO for that company now, and eventually pulled his corporate presence from there.

  17. Mast1

    Silent button

    Went from a minor UK regional airport 30 years ago to Schipol. I pre-warned the airline that I was carrying prototype electronics with me to demo to a company. Carried in hand luggage, for obvious reasons, it was about the size of a spectacle case, but covered with mechanical switches and entirely hand-built. Going out was OK, but on return through Schiphol X-ray I suddenly found myself facing two gun-toting guards, but no polite verbal request to go for a manual search. Maybe the 4 NiCd batteries showed up a bit too well.

    1. Down not across Silver badge

      Re: Silent button

      Went from a minor UK regional airport 30 years ago to Schipol

      Not quite that long ago, but maybe about 20 or so years ago, best trips to Amsterdam were from Cambridge airport with Suckling Airways. I did quite a few day trips to our Amsterdam office and loved the ease and convenience of minor UK airport.

  18. trevorde Silver badge

    Business or pleasure?

    Flew in to Detroit with a previous company and was asked by the polite US official whether I was: "Here for business or pleasure?" Was *really* tempted to snap back: "Are you taking the p155? Nobody comes to Detroit for pleasure!" but that would probably have resulted in a body cavity search.

  19. Peter Christy

    Its the glamour!

    Not specifically an IT issue, but a tale from Broadcast TV news, and lugging equipment around the world...

    Cast your mind back to 1986, and the Shultz - Shevardnadze peace conference in Vienna. At the time I was a video editor for a UK news organisation, dispatched to Vienna to cover the conference for our network.

    As usual, all the arrangements were left until the last minute, resulting in a panic to get the camera crew, reporter, producer, myself and all our equipment on a flight from Heathrow to Vienna. This was compounded by the fact that we would be sharing some resources with the American ABC network, so in addition to the editing equipment, I also had to lug along a standards converter (NTSC to PAL and vice versa – very big and heavy back then!) along with some extra NTSC and PAL video recorders to record local feeds and record and playback to the standards converter. This was a very big pile of equipment!

    The company hired a truck with a tail-lift to get me to Heathrow. When it arrived, it looked so beat up that the camera crew refused to risk their equipment in it, and took a black cab (at vast expense!) instead. I had no choice but to go in the truck!

    In addition to being beat up, it didn't have enough fuel to get from central London to Heathrow, and by the time we had re-fuelled, time was getting tight for my flight. The camera crew were great, and lent a helping hand to get everything off and into the check-in. It appeared to me that every broadcaster in the world was trying to get onto this flight, and each crew was also checking in a mountain of equipment! We all slapped our company cards down to pay the excess baggage, but I was starting to wonder nervously if the 'plane would ever get off the ground with all this equipment on board!

    Next stop was customs and carnet checking time. Just my luck to get a tiny and very officious customs officer, who clearly had an inferiority complex! He picked the one item of equipment in this mountain that did not have the serial number on the outside and insisted that I couldn't leave until he had verified it! One of the camera crew started unpacking a toolkit to start dismantling the sound mixer while I continued to argue with the customs official, with the last call for our flight sounding over the tannoy.

    At that moment, inspiration struck! Seeing a roll of duct tape in the toolbox, I tore a strip off, wrote the number on the tape and stuck it on the front!

    "Will that do?", I asked!

    "Yes!", he said, finally stamping the carnet!

    We made the flight by the skin of our teeth!

    But it doesn't end there!

    Arriving in Vienna at nearly midnight, I went to the car rental desk to enquire about the tail lift truck that was supposed to meet me. The woman behind the desk eventually put her knitting down and deigned to recognise my presence, but denied all knowledge of the booking! I spent the next half-an-hour traipsing around the airport desperately trying to hire a vehicle - of any sort - that would carry my cargo. I ended up hiring a 40 seater bus! For cash!

    The actual job itself went pretty smoothly, once the usual technical hiccups were sorted. A few days later, I found myself back at Vienna airport for the journey home. As I went from one desk to another, with a train of porters and equipment behind me, like a mother duck and her ducklings, I spotted a very harassed looking fixer from ABC crossing my path. She also had a train of porters and equipment behind her. She looked at me and said "That's what I love about this job! Its the glamour of it, the sheer glamour!" I laughed and gave her a wave!

    The ones I really felt for were the ABC camera crew. They were Polish, and as we were walking across to our shiny, new British Airways 767, they were forlornly heading towards a LOT Ilyushin of some description. That plane was standing in pools of kerosene and hydraulic fluid, and didn't look fit to taxy to a scrapyard, never mind fly back to Warsaw!

    Arriving back at Heathrow, I had to go through customs again to get the carnet stamped. As I approached the desk, who do I see, but the same officious little customs man! He took one look at me, and the mountain of equipment and bolted into the back room! One of his colleagues came out to deal with me, and it all went smoothly!

    This time there was a tail-lift truck waiting for me! The camera crew got into their limo and departed, leaving me to load up and follow. Having got all the gear stowed, I went to the cab to climb in, only to find the driver's girl-friend sat in the passenger seat. No-one had told him he had to fetch me as well!

    I spent the return trip from Heathrow sitting aside the transmission tunnel hanging on for dear life!

    Its the glamour, you know! The glamour!

  20. Lazlo Woodbine Silver badge

    Carry on up the Khyber

    Travelling around Northern Pakistan in the early 90's.

    The trip stared well when the x-ray machine in Karachi airport died, so they just let us all leave without checking anyone's bag, because it was too hot to bother with that kind of malarkey.

    We got the train up to Lahore, the carriage behind was attacked by genuine horse riding bandits, the guards fought them off and we carried on north.

    One of our group decides a few days later to pay an ex-UN guy to take us to Afghanistan to see some buried Russian tanks he'd heard about, so we get a train to Islamabad and from there head out in a battered ex-UN Land Rover and make a totally illegal incursion into Afghanistan.

    We didn't find any tanks sadly, then on the way back we heard some gun fire, but thought nothing of it until the land rover starts juddering and our guide notices we've run out of diesel.

    We coast down hill into a village, where we spot several extra holes along the side of the land rover, one of which was the fuel tank.

    The villagers patched us up with chewed khat, gave us chai and mutton curry, then an elder rolls a barrel of kerosene over and they siphon a few gallons into the perforated Land Rover.

    We thanked our friends and left, as we drove away from the village our guide casually says "so, how did you enjoy your time with the Taliban?"

    1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Re: Carry on up the Khyber

      So you hadn't been shot at enough in Pakistan... but they tried!

      1. Lazlo Woodbine Silver badge

        Re: Carry on up the Khyber

        It was a very interesting few weeks, but interesting in a way that I won't be rushing to relive...

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Setting off the metal detector

    A relative, now retired, has done some serious traveling for work. On one occasion, he had to leave straight from a manufacturing facility to rush to the airport. When the metal detector went off, he slapped his forehead and pulled out of his pockets pliers, screwdrivers, an adjustable wrench...

    On another occasion, he was in a Middle Eastern (I think) airport and set off the metal detectors. The clicking sound of gun safeties helped him think fast. With his hands in the air, he quickly said "Steel toe boots! Steel toe boots!"

    My experience was the opposite. Going through Heathrow (or was it Gatwick? It's been 15+ years), I set off the metal detector. Rolling my eyes, I pulled a mobile out of my pocket and started to step back through the gate, but they just waved me on. I could have had just about anything else in there too...

    1. GlenP Silver badge

      Re: Setting off the metal detector

      Steel toe boots! Steel toe boots!

      I used to routinely wear steel toe-cap trainers (back when you didn't have to routinely remove shoes) but it only dawned on me after several times setting off the metal detectors that that was the cause. Strangely security never realised either!

    2. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: Setting off the metal detector

      I went straight from a job to a gig that I'd booked months before. Completely forgetting that my techie tool bag consisted of a range of screwdrivers, the odd hammer, spanner and so on - but somehow no "sharps". While there was no official bag storage facility the entry staff took pity on me and allowed me to stow it with (near) the roadie's kit.

  22. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    My airport experiences as so much more prosaic.

    I visited Japan a couple of years ago. I'd had surgery a few months before and was still taking post-op drugs. On arriving at Haneda Airport the boarding card had that ominous little tickbox: Are you carrying any drugs.

    So, I approach the immigration clerk and they sat me in the room with no windows while they sent for somebody who could work out what my best-remembered university Japanese attempts were at 'blood pressure', 'pain relief', and, ahem.. 'stool softener'.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      'stool softener?

      Wow, those language exams must have been hard to pass!

  23. eldel

    German efficiency

    Somewhere around 2005 I was in Berlin giving a seminar and lab session. The hardware was shipped in its own travel rack but I was in the habit of carrying a bluetooth battery powered inkjet printer with me in my checked luggage so that we could update the handouts to suit local 'conditions'.

    No problems getting in - but coming out I heard my name over the airport tannoy telling me to contact an airport official. I find a sample of such to be told that they had some questions about my luggage. Turns out the printer had a suspicious outline on the xray and then the chemical sniffer reacted (to the inkjet ink??? I never did find out). So I get shown into the windowless room - with 3 cameras mounted on extending arms, two severe looking men in suits and 2 guys with sub machine guns and uniforms. My case is on the table in the middle of the room. Cue buttock tightening moment.

    Suit #1 asks what is in the case. I tell him, paperwork, handouts, clothes etc. Suit #2 produces xray printout and says "what is this". A printer I reply. Suits exchange glances and one of them says "it's too small to be a printer". I shrug and say we can always look at it. You want me to get it out? Suits exchange another look and say yes. I move towards the case to be told, in no uncertain terms, STOP. Cameras are moved into place - one of them watching my face, another watching my hands and another, I assume, getting a wide angle look. Uniforms unship the guns. Am told "proceed". I unzip the case and veeerrry slowly remove the printer. Ask if they want to see it do stuff. Another exchange of looks and "yes". Fortunately the battery was charged so I flipped it open, put a sheet of paper in it (also from the case) and hit the test button. Out comes a test print. At which point I start breathing again.

    Cameras are stowed, uniforms leave and suit says "I suggest you don't fly with that thing in your luggage". I had to agree,

  24. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge


    Hate them (and the moronic 'security' types that infest them)

    Went back to the US a few years ago after a previous trip pre 9/11 had educated me about airport metal detectors

    Walked upto the scanner, put keys, belt, money in the tray and walked through the thing "BING!"

    I said "wheres the guy with the wand?"... and duely led over... with slightly paranoid trigger happy loons lurking in the background (and this was at Gatwick)

    "You'll find the metal triggering the scanner on my right leg"

    Guy wands me all over without paying attention "BING" when it gets to the right leg

    "Its several pieces of metal holding my thigh bone together"

    Steely hard glare from plastic plod... "Ok off you go"

    However all far better than the TSA.... who helpfully put a note inside my extra large backpack explaining they cut the straps to open it..... while ignoring the easy release plastic clips next to where they cut..........

  25. MrBanana Silver badge

    The journey back was the problem

    As the company's International Trouble Shooter (bloke with passport, and nothing much to do for the next couple of days) I was sent to a customer site in Venice. Usual story at the front desk, swap your ID for their company visitor ID. Handed over my passport and got a flimsy plastic replacement. I was the database software guy, but problem was pretty clearly hardware and it would take another couple of days to get someone from DEC (yup, long time ago) on site to fix it. Great, thanks, I'll be off now. No. You will stay here until the hardware problem is fixed. We will keep your passport. Venice is actually lovely in December when there are no tourists, and you are on company expenses for a couple of days of no real work.

  26. Seattime

    Security Theater


    Working as a professional photographer had traveled across the US multiple times in 2002 with a camera backpack and an additional long lens case strapped through the bag to form one carrying case. Made it through my whole travel season up to my final flight home from Atlanta airport when the security agent 1refused to let the bag through, calling them two separate bags. Went back and forth for a few minutes before a second TSA agent gave me a large plastic shopping bag, put the "two" camera bags into this one plastic bag and agent 1 was no satisfied that this was only one item.


    Flying out of Canada at the time you had to hand check and power on your laptops to show that they actually worked. All well and good, however my brick of a Thinkpad at the time had a large removable disk drive which could be removed by flipping the keyboard up by pressing levers on either side of the case, leaving a space large enough to carry a number of undesirable items while still allowing there computer to start up normally as it was passed outside of the scanners. Never tested it but always wondered if others were not so polite.

    1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Security Theater


      You know, they advertise for these people on public transportation (along with the ads for personal injury lawyers and for profit "colleges"), and pay only slightly over minimum wage. You're not going to get a lot of common sense, best you can hope for is not under the influence, awake and breathing.

      1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        Re: Security Theater

        Not breathing is usually an improvement.

  27. Paul Cooper

    Back in 1987, a colleague and I had been working in Greenland, with piles of prototype electronics, test equipment and who knows what. We left Greenland on US Military flights and arrived around midnight at a US military airfield in New Jersey. There, we had to enter the USA and get through customs. Unfortunately for us, the military types who were on duty to check us through were a) peeved anyway at being on duty around midnight and b) had been told to expect one flight, but two arrived. So, when a pallet load of weird-looking kit turned up with a limey (me!) and a guy who claimed to be Texan but spoke with an impeccable English accent attached to it, they decided it was time to have some fun, and asked in menacing tones, "OK, what's in these cases?" Fortunately, our institute was well practised at getting our weird kit through remote airfields, and we had prepared a careful packing list for every crate. I showed them the list; they realized they didn't even know what half the stuff was, and wouldn't recognize it if it sat up and bit them and decided to forgo their fun!

    Of course, the fact that our ultimate destination in the US was Los Alamos National Laboratory might also have been a factor!

    1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

      Son's in the army. When he was deployed to Iraq, on a charter flight, everyone carrying huge backpacks and their personal (unloaded) weapons, they made them put each weapon through the x-ray, along with the backpacks.

      When he returned, again on a charter, they made him dump out his water bottle.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      US Customs vs military

      I had to do an install at a US military base in Colorado Springs (a very military town).

      The major in charge found us all twiddling our thumbs because customs had impounded our kit.

      He took a squad and retrieved it in less than an hour. Sadly we weren't allowed to watch :-(

  28. Jeremy Bresley

    ESD Bags

    The silver esd bags are especially fun to fly with. They block the x-ray machines and whatever is inside just looks like a black blob. It's even more exciting when the bag is filled to capacity with a bunch of SFPs, which to a TSA agent look very malicious. Next time I'm putting them in my checked bag instead.

  29. Stevie


    I had a gift-wrapped Caithness Paperweight spotted on xray and identified as a possible grenade in Heathrow once, cops with submachine guns, the works.

    A friend was asked to bring back Sparklets Soda Siphon parts for my boss, and his luggage was pulled off the plane when they showed up looking like 50 calibre bullets. Then he got a bollocking for putting them in the unpressurized hold.

    I had my coat grabbed and searched in Ottowa because a gag bottle of "Northern Comfort" planted there by my sister was opaque to xrays. Turns out maple syrup is xray proof.

  30. Olivier2553

    Flying to Tashkent

    On my second trip to Mazar-I-Sharif, Afghanistan, I insisted I would not go through Kabul and endure the long and uncomfortable road trip. Instead I would only go if I could fly to Tashkent. There I had booked a taxi that took me South to visit Samarkand on the way to the border where I rejoined with my colleagues and our president. If crossing the border when fine for us, our president who was Persian but with a Swedish passport took a much longer time to proceed. I still regret I was not able to spend more time in Samarkand.

    When I was a teenager, our return flight from a Greek camp had been overbooked, so we were rerouted through some country that was still part of USSR, we spent ten hours in transit, with no possibility to go outside, soldier with some big guns were making sure we staid in line.

  31. Marty McFly Silver badge

    Nassau, Bahamas

    Installed computers in a few restaurants there in the mid 1990's. Way before Atlantis took over Paradise Island. One computer never arrived. Customer was nonchalant about it, signed the invoice like they knew the issue but weren't sharing.

    That was back in the days when hard drives were bloody expensive. And the missing computer was a diskless workstation. Useless without the network and main computer to boot from.

  32. hittitezombie

    IBM Ticking Bomb Edition

    20 odd years ago, once was in a tiny German airfield which had a single "terminal" building flying back to England with an IBM POS till which had a backup battery as big as a motorbike one which looked very peculiar in the X-ray machine. That caused me being questioned with armed guards around me for about 15 mins. Quite hairy for a hairy young tech guy. This was pre-9/11.

    Saying that once I was arrested and questioned by the anti-terrorism squad in Turkey because my BBS had a copy of the Anarchist's Handbook. That was definitely not nice.

  33. hittitezombie

    I truly miss pre-9/11 and immigration bullshit days.

    Many times I walked into Stansted arrivals by just waving my passport, not even opening it. Everything changed after 9/11 and then once more after Farage-brigade started to make more news noise.

  34. DCA

    I have flown to Germany twice. Each time with luggage packed with EPROM burners, Z80 boards, wire, transformers....

    The first time was November 9th 1989. Yes the Wall fell while I was in the air.

    As I went through customs I was greeted by a nice German with a nice German Shepard and a nice machine gun. Seems my luggage was "of interest!"

    I did another trip to Germany with roughly the same luggage roughly two years later. My luggage was of interest again.

    Since then I have made a point of landing in Paris and driving to Germany.

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