The mysterious disappearance of a Malaysian Airlines plane, possibly a victim of a terrorist attack, has brought renewed attention to the issue of airport security. Malaysian Airlines, it emerges, not only allowed several passe4ngers with false or stolen passports to board the ill-fated flight, but has a previous conviction for knowingly falsifying passport records to allow a banned passenger to board a flight.
If this worries you, then consider my recent experience. A year or two ago, airlines everywhere were panicking at the prospect of liquid explosives potentially being brought on to a flight, leading to a general worldwide ban on liquids in all but tiny quantities being carried in cabin baggage. On Friday last week - the day before the Malaysian jet vanished - I flew back to Hong Kong from a business visit to Manila. At the airport, every passenger not only had their cabin baggage X-rayed, but was even asked to remove their shoes for X-ray examination. Strict security, you might think - but one of the colleagues I travelled with inadvertently left a bottle of drinking water in his backpack, which eluded discovery and went on to the plane with us.
So, is total flight security possible? I doubt it - even if passengers' carry-on bags are checked, it would only take one criminal baggage handler to smuggle a bomb on board. You either accept terrorism as a risk of flying, or stay at home.