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Airport Security Horror Story: Dumping Bags and Disrobing to Make My Flight Home

Airport Security Horror Story: Dumping Bags and Disrobing to Make My Flight Home

Joseph HostetlerAirport Security Horror Story: Dumping Bags and Disrobing to Make My Flight HomeMillion Mile Secrets Team

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Joseph:   I’m heading to Israel soon!

Israel has a special place in my heart.  It was the spot of my first international trip, and it’s probably my favorite place on earth.  So when WOW Air published a 50% off sale a few months ago, I jumped on a round-trip ticket from Chicago to Tel Aviv for $251.

Airport Security Horror Story Dumping Bags And Disrobing To Make My Flight Home
Israel Is Tiny, but Filled With Beauty!

My latest visit to Israel was 6 years ago.  The last memory I have of the country was one of the most hectic (and self-inflicted) travel experiences of my life:  Airport security.

Sprinting Past the Strictest Airport Security on Earth

Israel is…volatile.

Endless tragic news stories paint a picture of justified paranoia for every resident of the little country.

It seems like EVERYONE in Jerusalem has a gun.  Formations of Israeli soldiers with automatic weapons jog around the city.  Men at the park play basketball with a handgun on their hip.  Entering a restaurant takes a little longer, as everyone ahead of you is checking their guns at the door.

Airport Security Horror Story Dumping Bags And Disrobing To Make My Flight Home
Trying to Inconspicuously Photograph a Couple of Peace Keepers

And the Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv has perhaps the tightest security measures of any airport in the world.

Many airports recommend arriving ~3 hours before your international flight.  That is ludicrous to me, I’ve never done that and I never will.  Unless I’m flying out of Tel Aviv.

On the evening before my flight home, I was staying at a hostel in downtown Jerusalem.  I was not tired, and was still trying to turn my mind off at 4:00 am.  I was excited for my week-long stopover in Dublin the next day.

I decided to reach into my backpack and double-check my flight times.  To my horror, I realized I had egregiously misread my itinerary.  I thought I departed at 6:30 pm, but it was actually 6:30 am.  I was meant to depart in 2.5 hours, and I was 1.5 hours away from the airport.

I bolted out of my room, tumbling toward the front desk like a puppy sliding into a stove in a hardwood kitchen.  I asked for the receptionist to call a cab, and ran back to my room and shoved all my dirty clothes into my suitcase.

I paid an exorbitant amount of money for the ~1.5 hour drive to the airport.

Airport Security Horror Story Dumping Bags And Disrobing To Make My Flight Home
If You’re Commuting Between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, a Nesher Shuttle Is Much Cheaper Than a Taxi

I arrived at the airport 45 minutes before my flight.  And the security line was almost out the door.  A man walked up and down the line, inquiring about everyone’s departing flight.

When I told him mine, he grabbed my suitcase and walked me to a table where a woman began rifling through my belongings.  The 3 of us were mortified by the organization and pungency of my bag.

He took me to a back room and ordered me to disrobe down to my socks and undies.  He took my shoes and disappeared for a couple minutes behind another door.  He returned my shoes, I got dressed, returned to my bag, and was given some kind of security pass.

My memory is still a little hazy, but I’m telling you the agent said something to the effect of, “I’ve pre-cleared you for all the security checkpoints.  You have 5 minutes to make it to the plane.  If anyone asks you to stop, just keep running.”

Airport Security Horror Story Dumping Bags And Disrobing To Make My Flight Home
Ben Gurion Airport Is Very Beautiful. Just Make Sure You Arrive in Time to Give It a Look!

Having experienced the remarkably cautious Israeli mindset over the past few weeks, juking armed security officers seemed like a REALLY REALLY BAD idea to me.  But I had no problems, and performed an Indiana Jones dive into the fuselage as the door was shutting.

Bottom Line

After misreading my travel itinerary, I arrived just 45 minutes before my flight out of an airport with perhaps the tightest security in the world, Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv.  Running serpentine to my gate with my hands in a surrender pose, I made my flight with no time to spare.  It was nothing short of miraculous.

What’s the craziest airport story you have?

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I would say you got very lucky. I recently was at Ben Gurion. I arrived with 4+ hours to spare. We really really wanted out of that country. As it turned out, there were about a dozen people killed in Gaza that day.

Author
Joseph Hostetler

🙁 It’s such a mess in the region. I hope your desires to return to Israel weren’t irreparably snuffed. It has lots to offer.

You absolutely usually need 3 hours in Israel. I’ve been there twice and the first time from Istanbul to Tel Aviv I was pulled out of the line and questioned for over an hour and missed my flight, and then I was pulled out for questioning again in Tel Aviv so I missed my connecting flight. The next time I went I was fully prepared to be grilled but they only asked a few questions and let me pass through. They are serious about security!

Author
Joseph Hostetler

Wow, questioned for over an hour! And I’m sure security gets tighter by the day. The airline rescheduled you then, yeah?
I was pulled out of line and questioned for quite a while at the Israel/Jordan border crossing. It was epiphanic to see burkas, keffiyeh scarves, and turbans stroll through security, while a goofy white boy raised a flag. I was the outsider!

what if someone decides to go commando 😛

Author
Joseph Hostetler

Haha! That would show them.
Nah, I don’t think disrobing is common, it was all my fault for showing up so late. If I was them, I wouldn’t have let me on the plane.

Do they disrobe all passengers?

Not quite as crazy but undoubtedly more dangerous – I had a short layover in Panama so I rented a car to visit some local friends. I spent the afternoon chatting and when I asked my friend what time it was, she told me a time that would have given me more than enough time to get to the airport. Shortly afterwards, her son entered the conversation and mentioned the time was actually a couple of hours different. It turns out that her watch had stopped working. I jumped in the rental and proceeded to drive as fast as humanly possible to the airport (this was before the toll road to the airport was completed). I was driving up to 100 mph and passing on the right shoulder whenever possible. Fortunately no police noticed my stupidity. I got to the airport (I already had my boarding pass), ran to security who told me to run to the gate or I would miss the flight. Do not try this now as Panama is now a major hub for COPA with flights all over Latin America and the security lines and the distance to the gates are much longer. Back then COPA was just a small central american carrier.

Author
Joseph Hostetler

That made me laugh out loud. The best stories are usually the most hellish. Love it! And congratulations on still living.

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