The Dystopian Heathrow

Heathrow Terminal 4 is now a Dystopia, and should be avoided.

A dystopia is a fictional society that is the antithesis of utopia. It is usually characterized by an oppressive social control, such as an authoritarian or totalitarian government.

One of the best known Dystopias is depicted in Fritz Lang’s classic movie Metropolis, and Heathrow Terminal 4 is a modern interpretation where the paying passengers play the role of the slaves.

We’ve become connoisseurs of European airport security – Brits and Germans most oppressive, the rest OK. London Stanstead was by far the worst, but on our journey back to the Southern Med today, Heathrow Terminal 4 seized the wooden spoon.

As we entered security, we could see six long lines of passengers shuffling silently towards the Walk Through Metal Detectors (WTMDs) and scanners, under the gaze of security personnel.

In one hand, each passenger clutched their transparent bag containing no more than the regulation number of fluids and pastes, each not to exceed 100 milliliters.

In the other hand they held their single item of hand luggage, not to exceed the Brit limit (one poor chap had to check his 12″ x 6″ X 6″ overnight bag because it wouldn’t fit into his legal case).

In their third hand they clutched their laptop.

In their fourth hand they held their shoes, which had to be removed on joining the line. The carpet was filthy and security did not provide disposable socks, so the passengers’ socks and feet became as unhygienic as Sheryl Crow’s nether regions.

In their fifth hand the uncomplaining passengers held their jacket.

On reaching the search point, they placed their bag, shoes, laptop, jacket, coins, and plastic bag in assorted trays, then passed through the WTMD when ordered to do so.

Security pulled one bag in 4 pulled for manual search.

Our transit time was 40 minutes.

Security confiscated the life support system (3 bottles of water and 3 of a special juice) from a diabetic woman in a wheelchair – the containers exceeded 100 milliliters. We hope she made it.

We were non-compliant – I wouldn’t walk shoeless on their carpet and Mrs G wouldn’t let them take her toothpaste. Everybody else complied – they had vacations or meetings they couldn’t miss, while we were under no time pressure.

Heathrow Terminal 4 is mainly British Airways, so most of the poor devils were Brits.

Bullying, lousy equipment, and incompetence are of course common to all state enterprises, but Heathrow Terminal 4 has reached new depths.


2 Responses to The Dystopian Heathrow

  1. Jay says:

    “In their third hand” . . .

    I knew Brits were a bit different but . . .

    Ref the wheelchair woman, Good Lord, have they no common sense at all? I can’t picture US law enforcement obeying the letter of the law in that case and if they did, at a minimum the cop would be fired (maximum = major lawsuit).

  2. gandalf says:


    Sadly only two hands so people kept on dropping things.

    The wheelchair woman’s situation was was actually worse than I described. She was black, and flying British Airways.

    She said BA had told her her medication was OK to carry-on, and checking their website this seems to be the case.

    The guy pushing the wheelchair went to ask the BA representative to help, but came back and said they had declined to.

    This happens in the UK because the Brits are, on average, much less assertive than Americans.

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