Questions that Heathrow airport refuses answer
Thursday, 28 May 2009 15:07

Table of questions posed to BAA Heathrow airport concerning security screening of passengers and assaults on passengers by security personnel

Index of the exchange

Question to Heathrow airport Answer from Heathrow airport
15 May 2009
1 Is it possible for airport security staff to assault members of the public whilst carrying out their search duties?    
have these [security screeners] people been granted some special immunity from prosecution for acts which would normally be regarded as serious assaults upon the person?
As with any human interaction, I accept that the possibility exists for individuals to feel they have had a negative experience. I am confident, however, that while you felt you were given an overly thorough body search, this procedure in in live with our security standards and was not intended to offend or harm you.

Comment: The BAA representative does not appear to be able to accept that the passenger was assaulted, in the same way that the police might not accept that a woman was raped.
2 have these [security screeners] people been granted some special immunity from prosecution for acts which would normally be regarded as serious assaults upon the person? Our staff are subject to the same standards of hehavious that would be expected of any individual.

Comment: This is not an answer to the question.
3 What should I do if I consider that I have been assaulted? Who should I ask to speak to, how do I know that my complaint will be taken seriously and that I will not be victimized? Specifically that the staff will not make sure that I miss my flight?
‘Pleased by assured if you fell that a member of out team has been rude or has physically harmed you, that our operations managers will take this very seriously.'

Comment: The question is quite clear, but a clear unequivocal answer has not been given. An assault can take place without physical contact, a fact that notices in airports and other places are only too quick to point out to travelers. It is obvious from internet research that passengers in the US have been the  subject of retaliation from staff.
4 What measures are in place to ensure that homosexuals or lesbians are not employed in this sensitive duty where they could abuse their position and derive sexual gratification from mistreating members of the public who might not want to complain especially as they know that they will be delayed in doing so? Our staff are employed in a professional capacity to ensure the safety and security of Heathrow airport, passengers and other staff. We are satisfied that our staff have been trained to perform body searches in line with Department for Transport standards.

Comment: This is not an answer to the question.
5 The North American screening method uses small hand-held metal detectors - why are these not used in the UK and more widely in Europe as this would virtually eliminate the possibility of assault, are quicker and much less stressful? We use a range of search techniques at Heathrow airport, whcih may involve the use of a hand held device.

Comment: This does not answer the question.
6 . . . I would like a written statement explaining exactly what your airport management define as a verbal assault and a physical assault on a member of staff . . . Any act which affects the health and safety of any individual will be treated seriously by Heathrow airport. We expect staff to be courteous and helpful toward our passengers at all times.

Comment: Insufficient information
7 . . . can you please provide me with the name and reference of these regulations and the name of the Act of Parliament that gives them force or the legal instrument or order that gives them force. BAA security staff are required to carry out duties in line with the Department for Transport's regulations as part of the Aviation Security Act.

Comment: In all cases the public are entitled to ask and receive an answer to the question 'by what authority do you act?' without that anyone in any position of authority could do anything they liked without challenge. This response says nothing and does not answer the question.
8 Please confirm that the actual regulations are secret and the public has no access to them. You will find more information on these regualtions at

Comment: This in not a confirmation, the website does not contain the information.
9 Please confirm that passengers are only ever asked to do things that are contained within these regulations and that passengers and others are never asked to do anything that is not explicitly stated in the regulations. In addition to Department for Transport regulations, our staff carry out a number of tasks as required by BAA to ensure safety and security of our airport. These tasks include preventing the enrty of items into secure areas which we consider my [sic] pose a health or safety risk. The processes for searching passengers at the airport, however, is monitored by the Department for Transport.

Comment: Security staff are not honest with passengers and deliberately ask questions that are not within the Department for Transport regualtions. A specific example is 'Are you wearing a belt?' - the stressed passenger is likely to interpret that as meaning that they are required to remove their belt and put in into the tray for passing through the x-ray machine. The correct answer is 'yes' or 'no'. There is NO requirement for the passenger to remove their belt. What is actually happening is that passengers are being misled by the security staff. Next time you go through the airport, in response to any request simply ask 'Is that a mandatory requirement?' and you will be surprised to find that you are NOT required to remove your belt.

Similarly you are NOT required to throw away your water bottle - only empty in before going through security, then refill it wil tap water on the other side. If you can't find a tap ask any of the cafes or retail outlets and they will fill it FREE of charge.

10 I wish to complain further and request that you tell me what organisations or regulators both governmental or otherwise are available for aggrieved travelers to contact. I understand you may wish to discuss your concems [sic] further with the Department for Transport. For your convenience, their contact details are:
Department for Transport Great Minster House
76 Marsham Street London
Fax: 02079449643

Comment: BAA Heathrow airport has not answered the question with candor, their answer should include details of the Civil Aviation Authority's Air Transport User's Council, one wonders why!

If I was a teacher marking and exam or homework I would be writing 'anwer the question!' and similar comments in red all over the script. The conclusion to be drawn is that BAA and Heathrow airport are not interested in passenger complaints. If you can avoid LHR then avoid it.

Index listing of the original complain and full exchange of letters

Read the original complaint

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