We just took our son, Miles, on his first “vacation” by airplane, and we decided to visit St. Kitts and Nevis (which I’ll write more about in a separate post). We had a great time, but our experience departing the airport sure left a bad last impression.
St. Kitts Airport punishes people without quart-size bags
Most countries in the world continue to restrict the liquids that you can take into the passenger cabin of an aircraft. Individual containers can only be up to 3.4 ounces, and you can only have as many items as you can fit in a quart-sized bag.
To be perfectly honest, sometimes I travel with a quart-size bag, and sometimes I don’t. In the United States, I have TSA PreCheck, so I never have to take liquids out of my bag. But even in other countries:
- At a lot of airports, you can just leave liquids in your bag
- At airports that require you to remove your liquids from your bag, I often just place my toiletry bag in the bin separate from the rest of my stuff, and that’s sufficient
- At airports that do strictly enforce having to place everything in a quart-size bag, they’ll usually provide bags to those who don’t have them
This is my experience from a lot of miles flown, and a lot of countries visited. Well, that brings us to Robert L. Bradshaw International Airport in St. Kitts (SKB). The entire airport experience is rather unpleasant (not unexpected for the Caribbean), but it’s the security process that irked me.
We checked in for our flight, then went up to the second level, then had to fill out our departure immigration cards, then had to wait for the exit immigration checkpoint, and then could finally go through security.
We put everything on the security belt, and were quite frazzled, as it was our first time going through security with a baby outside of TSA PreCheck (of course that’s not anyone else’s problem, but it’s just a side note).
As I was getting ready to slide some of our stuff through the x-ray, here’s what went down:
Security officer: “What’s this?” (pointing to my toiletry bag that I zipped open, which had two small liquid containers in it)
Me: “It’s my toiletries”
Security officer: “That needs to be in a quart-size bag.”
Me: “Oh, I’m sorry. Do you maybe have one that I can use?”
Security officer: “No. You need to buy one.”
Me: “Okay… where can I buy that?”
Security officer: “There’s a gift shop next to the check-in desks that sells them.”
Me: “So I have to exit security and immigration and go all the way back there?”
I was kind of speechless on many levels:
- If the airport wants to be very strict about its liquids policy that’s fair enough, but it would be nice if the airport then provided quart-size bags for those who didn’t have them, like almost every other airport in the world; I mean, every user departing the airport pays a ~$22 airport service charge, and how much does a little bag cost?
- I wouldn’t even mind if the airport wanted to force us to buy a bag; it would just be nice if there were a warning before you went through immigration and then security, or if you could buy it directly by the security checkpoint, maybe by placing a certain amount of money in a box
- St. Kitts Airport is very small and can get busy, so how is this an efficient use of anyone’s time to have to process guests multiple times, and slow everyone down?
As we started to repack our stuff and prepare to leave security again, Ford turned to the nice lady behind us, and asked if there was any chance she had an extra bag. She opened her suitcase, and her carry-on actually had a quart-size bag attached to it, and she said “I knew this would come in handy some day!”
Why be so punitive with passengers?
I suspect the explanation for a policy like this is just that there’s a disconnect between the people who make the rules and those who have to enforce them.
But I can’t help but feel that the airport’s policy is downright punitive. It’s one thing to make your passengers buy quart-size bags, but on top of that they seemingly make it as complicated as possible. You have to leave security and leave immigration to buy one, massively delaying and inconveniencing everyone.
The economy of St. Kitts and Nevis is almost entirely reliant on tourism. And when it comes to travel and hospitality, I tend to think that first and last impressions matter the most. Your first impression sets the tone for your time somewhere, and your last impression is often what sticks with you the most.
Absolutely enforce whatever policies you feel need to be enforced for aviation safety (even if the liquids ban makes no sense). But at least don’t go out of your way to intentionally make matters more complicated for passengers.
Suffice it to say that this is quite a contrast to Papeete Airport (PPT) in Tahiti, where you’re welcomed with live music…
If you’re traveling from St. Kitts Airport, make sure you bring a quart-size bag for your liquids. This is the first airport I’ve been to that makes you buy a bag if you don’t have one. But that’s not even what irks me — what frustrates me most is how tough the airport makes it to buy a bag — you have to leave both the security and immigration area, go down a floor, and go to the gift shop by the check-in desks to buy a bag.
Not exactly a great last impression to an otherwise good trip…
Has anyone else dealt with something like this at St. Kitts Airport, or at another airport?