domingo, 1 de mayo de 2011

A Day in the life of Heathrow Airport


Meeting multiple James Bonds or chatting to families on holiday, no day is ever the same for Heathrow´s security officers, as one of them reveals.

I´m one of about 200 security officers at Heathrow Terminal 4, I started working at the airport nine years ago, because the shift work fitted well with looking after my three children.

My job has a routine to it, and I perform very similar tasks every day - checking boarding passes, operating the scanners, and searching passengers in security. But I have to saty completely focused - I´m very aware of the responsability that comes with my position.

Having said that, not all of my working day is so serious. I enjoy helping people, and I love a chat. It´s nice to speak to passengers because they come from all over the world, and are all travelling for different reasons. In an international terminal such as ours, passengers can be flying to Mauritius for a holiday, visiting New York for shopping or even travelling to Tokyo for business.

I was shy about questioning things before I took this job on, but I´m more assertive now. Nine years down the line, I know all the regulations about what people can and can´t take on board with them. But the Department for Transport´s list is long, and the regulations can change. The hardest thing is when I search someone´s bag and find gifts they´re not allowed to take in hand luggage, such as jars of jam or chutney (because they count as liquids), or letter openers, or a mum with Fruit Shoot drinks for her kids. As a parent myself, I feel for them. Sadly, the rules are the rules. But there are usually ways around a problem, like checking a bag in. I want to help to find solutions, I always want to be a friendly face.

We see all kinds of people at Terminal 4 and it´s always exciting when celebrities come through. I remember Sean Connery being very tall and having a real presence. Pierce Brosnan too. They were both incredibly attractive and very charming. It mus be the Bond thing. Some just want to slip by in a hat and be unnoticed, but they all have to pass through security.

Ordinary people can be just as memorable. One time, a little Mexican girl came through with her mother, looking suspiciously bulky. When I asked she explained she had cash in her leotard. She thought a leotard was a safer places to keep her spending money than a bag. There is always something interesting going on - no day is ever the same.

A text from Heathrow magazine, page nº 66. April, 2011.

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