Airport Security: Has Australia’s Heightened Terror Alert Changed Anything?

Airport Security: Has Australia’s Heightened Terror Alert Changed Anything?

With Australia’s terror alert currently on “high” (but with no “specific” threat) you might think that Australia’s airports would adopt a US-style heavy checking regime. So far, though, that doesn’t seem to have happened.

Baggage picture from Shutterstock

With a trip to the US from Sydney this week, I was curious to see whether or not that heightened alert had made any changes to passenger experience when travelling through immigration and customs, and how it reflected the experiences you have in the United States, where airport screening is a quite involved process. (Quick disclaimer: I travelled to the US as a guest of HTC.)

This is obviously just anecdotal, not long-term data. Just throwing that out there early on.

In any case, changes in our terror alert level don’t seem to have changed a single thing at Sydney’s International airport.

Scanning and checking was much as it has been over any given trip I’ve taken, with the only notable difference being that this was the first time that I’ve had a tablet spotted during an x-ray scan and mistaken for a laptop, although I’m fairly sure that was because it was sitting in a keyboard case.

Otherwise, however, while it still pays to allow time to pass through customs and immigration, because queue lengths can vary, as can the needs of people ahead in that queue, there’s no obvious signs of any additional measures being implemented.

Comparatively, travelling into the US is still a much more measured experience, with the expected shoe removal, extraction of all laptops and tablets (as specified to me by a US Homeland Security operative) from bags, and full body scans.

The effectiveness of airport screening is still a highly contentious topic, but in terms of ease of travel, Australians and travellers moving through our airports still do have it good in comparative terms.


  • US airport security is a nightmare, esepcially coming through the metal detector with not belt or shoes and trying to put everything back in your pockets, pick up your bag and shoes while holding your pants up and making your way to a seat to put your shoes back on.

    At least you can opt out of those invasive xray machines. In Sydney I was forced to go through one to fly, no other options. Then it thought there was something on my back. If it has issues seeing through 2mm of fabric it can’t be that good.

    • Wear a jacket. You can then place all of your body items, (keys wallet phone and belt) in your jacket while in line and throw that in to be scanned. Saves heaps of time.

      When I remember…….

      • Most times I visit the US it’s summer and stinking hot though. Good to keep in mind otherwise though.

    • I was forced too, by a totally dis-interested officer who was too busy picking her fingernails, then must of realised it was quota time, so looked up and pointed me into it. I then had to be pat down anyway, because the hood on my shirt being a bulge was something that had to be investigated.

      I’d rather just be pat down.

  • This seems to be a recurring theme:

    1) Ratchet up the threat level based on incomplete or incorrect information
    2) Make no changes
    3) “Take care” of the threat
    4) ???

  • I travelled from here to the UK about a month ago, and came back earlier this week. No major change at Melbourne’s end from when I travelled to NZ earlier in the year. They were very keen on security at Heathrow, however, not sure if it’s on par with the norm though (I suspect so from the stories I’ve heard), it picked up my Swatch watch in the metal detector (when no other airport does), resulting in a full body pat-down. Wasn’t much of a problem, we got through security in all of about 5 minutes, just completely un-necessary.

    At Hong Kong, coming back to Melbourne, I did experience something new (that we didn’t see going to London a few week earlier), on boarding they re-checked all our carry on luggage and made us throw away any bottles of water we purchased. No idea why (there’s no reasoning or questioning these people). Not sure what would have happened if I had of purchased, say, a bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue Label, but I probably would have kicked up a bit more of a stink about it if they wanted to take it off me!

    But, no, nothing new in Melbourne for this “High threat level” we’re currently experiencing. Not that there should be! The security in place is already ridiculously over the top, and completely pointless in some cases (look at the BS liquid restrictions for example).

  • I have had all manner of devices mistaken for laptop computers, most commonly my travel radio that I take with me everywhere I go. Depending on where i’m going, that’s either a Grundig G3 or a Tecsun PL-880.

    These cases of mistaken identity have only happened to me at Sydney airport, I have never had this issue when travelling through Adelaide airport, including flying out or coming back from international.

    When I go to Sydney in November I will probably have a tablet, a laptop AND a travel radio with me, so let’s see how they handle that.
    (it will probably be a repeat of when I travelled through sydney with several radios including a UHF CB, as well as my laptop, 2 mobile broadband modems and a few antennas several years ago – I was asked to pull everything out of my bag and hold up everyone – everything was fine but it was still embarrassing – still I’d take that minor inconvenience over being blown out of the sky any day of the week)

    • Airport security has never stopped a terrorist attack ever so it won’t make any difference to being blown out of the sky.

      And it’s not kept ‘secret’. If it was ever discovered, the government would crow from the rooftops about how they kept Australia safe or in the US the TSA would finally be able to say “look, we did something”.

      • You lost all credibility at “Airport security has never stopped a terrorist attack”

          • That’s true, one example would refute your incredible claim, so here’s one from June of this year:

            10 June 2014 1:10pm.

            Taliban Terrorists armed with guns, grenades and rocket-launchers assault Jinnah Airport.

            Airport Security Forces engage in the fire-fight for around an hour, successfully denying them entry, and forcing a full retreat in just over an hour.

          • You mean that you seek for me to provide an example of someone stopping an event so utterly that it never had a chance to manifest in reality? You can’t possibly be so stupid that you don’t see the logical impossibility of that demand.

            The Terrorists attacked and were stopped by Airline Security.
            You are refuted.
            Man up and admit it.

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