Filed Under: Security/TSA, Travel

As I mentioned previously, I’m currently on a trip with one of my best friends, Matt. We’re planning the trip day-by-day, which means I’ll be writing the trip report more or less live. Matt will be sharing his thoughts as we go along as well — here’s his fifth installment.

Guten tag from Berlin.  After an amazing stay in Stockholm we jumped on an airberlin flight to Berlin for a few days.  But as far as my review goes, we’re still in Manchester!  We stayed in the Hilton Manchester Deansgate, which is the tallest and most iconic building in the city.  Ben will be reviewing it very shortly, so I won’t go into much detail on the hotel experience and instead will focus on Manchester itself and the MAN airport experience, which was a painful yet comedic experience, or something like that.


Manchester itself is a very cute city that has a somewhat “small town” feel.  Given that Emirates has thrice daily service (two on an A380), and that Etihad and Qatar have two daily flights, I have to wonder where all the people go!  One of the nicest aspects of Manchester was the weather!  After Dubai, there was nothing I wanted more than to walk outside without feeling like I was three inches from the sun.  You might think of the UK as being dreary, but the slight bit of rain and 65 degree weather was very very welcomed after the 110+ degree weather in Dubai.  It’s also very easy to walk around the Deansgate area, which was also a pleasant change of pace after sprawling Dubai.


We had lounge access the second day at the Hilton, and the views were quite nice.

Manchester Cathedral 


Manchester also has a number of scenic canals running through it.  I tried to capture a few of them, but I’m not a very good photographer so you’ll have to forgive me and visit the city yourself to understand what I am really talking about.

Canals in Manchester 

Canals in Manchester 

A boat named Tug! 

Because we had just arrived on EK17 and were a bit tired still from having been up for what felt like a week, we slept for a good amount of time upon arrival.  Worry not, however.  We had classic UK cuisine — Indian.  And we went out to a bar.  A proper bar.  The Cock! 

Only in the UK would this be appropriate

Overall, I enjoyed my brief stay in Manchester.  It’s a charming city.  I would return not so much to see Manchester proper, but to go to the lakes district nearby, which I’ve heard is absolutely amazing.  So far this review has been nothing but complimentary, so I’ve got to change that by discussing my Manchester airport security experience.  Three letters: W. T. F.

At this point in the trip I had been through security at LAX, SAV (visiting my parents in Hilton Head, SC), DFW, and DXB.  With the exception of SAV, each of these airports is substantially larger than MAN.  I had no issue going through security in any of the cities.  (In fairness, I had TSA Precheck at each of the US cities.)  Manchester, however, takes the whole only 100 ml or less liquids in a one quart (or something like that) size clear bag laughably seriously.  I had my toiletries in Swiss and Singapore first class amenity kits, as one does, but that of course wouldn’t do.  They needed to be separately placed in a single clear bag that had to seal completely.  I don’t fly as much as Ben, but I put in a substantial amount of flying both domestically and internationally every year, and I haven’t been asked to do this anywhere in at least the past five years.  I did it, leaving some things out because they wouldn’t fit, assuming, as is the case, that they wouldn’t really care.  Oops.  They cared.

My personal item got flagged, and the agent called me over for a search of my bag.  He took out my moisturizer and said that it was too big.  125 ml.  Surely that .25 liter excess was enough to raise serious safety flags.  I was also forced to throw away sunscreen, shampoo, conditioner, and hair styling products.  Not because the bottles were too big, but because they wouldn’t fit in the bag.  Funny enough, in the bag with everything else was my 150 ml face cleanser.  That was no big deal though, apparently.  Go figure.  I also had to purge the contents of my Emirates amenity kits.  Those were going to be part of a contest on the blog, but instead some dude in Manchester is walking around with what would have been a blog reader’s amenities.  And to think, America declared independence centuries ago!  The best part, however, was that my other bag went through with oversize hand cream, cologne that wouldn’t have fit into my clear bag, toothpaste, and shaving cream.  It’s one thing to be a stickler and get things right.  It’s another thing to be comically strict with respect to some things but then fail to actually screen adequately overall.  I wonder if I had just left all the toiletries in my bag if they’d have even noticed.  And listening to other peoples’ experiences, I was no exception.  There should be a “Come Fly With Me” episode dedicated to MAN security.  It was a joke.

I did eventually make it, and our quick BA flight to LHR went as expected.  About 20 minutes in the air to London, and 25-30 minutes in a holding pattern waiting to land at LHR.  The best part, however, was the Galleries First Lounge at LHR.  I was impressed by the fact that they served 2006 Taittinger and Taittinger NV rose (which I prefer to the brut, even vintage).  It’s somewhat common to see Taittinger in BA lounges, but that makes me wonder why the serve Grand Siecle over Taittinger’s tete de cuvee Comtes de Champagne.  There’s some things in life that are simply inexplicable, I guess!

British Airways Galleries First Champagne — Taittinger 

The lounge attendant told us that our flight to Stockholm was “on time, which [was] remarkable.”  (Gotta love his confidence in LHR Terminal 5 / BA.)  He was a little wrong, however, as the aircraft boarded slightly late.  I adored Stockholm, and have a great story to share regarding the Arlanda Express train (from the airport to Stockholm).

BA 777

Stay tuned!

  1. The screeners at MAN are indeed sticklers on liquids and plastic bags. I had never heard the specific rule that the bags need to seal 100%, so I was using the supposedly TSA-approved nice plastic toiletry bag that had come with my carry-on. The problem was that it was made in a way that the zipper didn’t go completely across, but instead had a small gap. The screener said that bags need to close completely because of “fumes”. She let me through, but I stopped traveling with that bag since I didn’t want to encounter any future problems.

  2. EK has three flights a day from Manchester because of the large South Asian (or just Asian as they say in the UK) population. The little discuss secret of success of the ME3 carries (especially EK) is that they are the defacto airlines of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh… If you look at the population of those countries and look at the size of their airlines you’ll see that some thing doesn’t make sense….

  3. Hah, I had the same problem at CVG. With the low volume of passengers they have the time to follow all the procedures.

    As for all the a380 flights – isn’t Manchester an engineering hub? Structural, chemical, civil, etc. engineers working on projects in the Middle East?

  4. I have to say that I have thoroughly enjoyed this episodic trip report. Matt’s perspectives are truly exceptional.

    But–dude!–it sounded like you had half a Walgreens shoved into your carry-on. I’m not surprised that you had security riding your ass.

    Still, it was a great read.

  5. Just back from Europe on BA F through LHR, and had the same problem when transiting there. The secondary security screening at T5 had the same overly-thorough screening that was incredibly haphazardly applied. My Crew Pomade (which is hardly a “liquid” in the strict sense) was clearly a security concern yet my >100mL facewash, and my aerosol shaving cream and Rogaine (also >100mL) were super okay and didn’t need to leave my TSA-approved zip baggy.

    Clearly this isn’t isolated to Manchester.

  6. I would have been annoyed too, but you shouldn’t (necessarily) take it out on the folks working the security line. The law is the law, and from the sounds of it you weren’t even particularly close to following it. It seems like a slippery slope to let individual agents decide which people need to follow which rules.

    For the record I recently experienced similar anal-ness at Heathrow – I’d actually put my liquids in a clear bag, but had missed something deep in my bag that I’d totally forgotten about.

    I mean yeah, the rules need to change, but don’t blame the folks who are paid to enforce them for doing their jobs.

  7. The rules quite clearly say 100ml. You’re just ignorant if you think that taking 125ml is fine. It’s not one rule for you and one for everyone else. It’s people like you that end up holding the rest of us up in the queues because you think your above the rules

  8. Being British and living in the US I’m amused that you don’t enforce your own liquid rule that stringently, meanwhile the UK is still religiously going for it.

    Regarding MAN, it’s a popular large airport for anyone in central and slightly north England. Connecting flights are less acceptable, assuming there are direct options available. Whereas in the US, connecting is standard.

  9. Glah, MAN is awful.

    Though worst security I have encountered is at OOL in Aus. If flying internationally you have to go through security TWICE, the first time no one cares if you have liquids the second they do. Absolutely bizarre.

  10. It’s not even 0.25 l…. it’s only 0.025 l that you were over by! (25 ml = 25 / 1000 = 0.025 l)

    Rules are rules… but it does kinda seem silly when you’re going into that many decimals.

  11. I find that the UK airports tend to be pickier than the U.S. Airports. With that said, I lived in Manchester and frequently flew in/out of there and have never experienced the scrutiny you did (Heathrow for sure). I’ve never even used their ziplock baggies.

  12. Oh that’s adorable, you sound like you’ve never travelled overseas before, travelling with the entire contents of your toiletry collection 😉

    That being said, honey, any real friend of Ben’s should know what the liquid regulations are and also the fact that just because you get away with it in some places, doesn’t mean the places they stick to the rules are the problem.

    Stick to travel sizes of everything you might need. Cologne, mouthwash, toothpaste, moisturiser, lube, glittery facepaint and you’re good!

  13. Really enjoyed this write up of my home town!

    It’s a shame about the security issues, but the liquid sizes and sealable bag rules are pretty much hammered home to UK based travellers. It’s as many 100ml or less bottles you can fit in a sealable 20x20cm bag. Now, if you don’t have a clear sealable bag they’ll issue one to you in the queue, but these are smaller than 20x20cm – so it’s best to take your own and put any items you don’t need for the flight in the hold. Last year my wife forgot she had a 200ml bottle of sunscreen in her carry on and ended up spraying it all over myself and my daughter as we waited for screening as she knew it would be thrown away – saved time in Venice I guess !!

    I’m glad you enjoyed Manchester itself – The Deansgate area has been developed really well over the last few years and the area around the canal locks is one of my favourite for drinks in the evenings . The best place for food is probably The Wharf, a lovely historic building with great service! It’s also with exploring the Northern Quarter – the bars there are more traditional and ‘bohemian’.

    Your visit to ‘The Cock’ is interesting – well out of town in Worsley, one of Manchester’s nicer suburbs – but it’s a ‘chain pub’, I would have stuck in the city centre and tried ‘Sinclair’s Oyster Bar’ near Selfridges.

    If you do return to visit The Lake District be sure to stay at The Lakeside Hotel, you won’t fail to be impressed, the service and views are amazing and you can even arrive or depart by private boat at the jetty right outside the hotel’s garden!

  14. Had a similar experience recently at PTY of all places. All US-bound flights go through secondary screening, and those screeners took the liquids rule seriously. Apparently, my cologne bottle was 3.4 fl oz, which is 100ml–but of course, they were following the 3-1-1 rule. It was too easrly to fight it, and I let it go. In hundreds of thousands of miles of flying it was the first time I ever had any issue. I have not been through MAN though.

  15. I remember when the liquids rule was first implemented, the staff security checkpoint in Gatwick was a nightmare when the US Airways crew came through. It would take at least 45 minutes to clear the crew because every single one of them had oversized toiletries and would always argue in vain that they were crew so should be exempt. So you aren’t the first American and definitely not the last who will fall foul of an accurate interpretation of the rules.

  16. These photos were taken with my iPhone 6.

    I don’t purport to be above the rules, the point of the article was this is the only place in Europe, Asia, N/S America, and Australia where this happened. I also wasn’t rude to the screeners; quite the opposite. It never pays to be rude, especially in situations where power is distributed unevenly (and bureaucratically).

  17. Now, I´m not sure how Ben let you put that online, but the plane on the picture clearly is a 777, not a 767.

    Set aside the security crazy, this here is a much more major slip-up. Sorry, but you have come to the wrong place to incorrectly identify aircraft! 😉

    Happy travels!

  18. Spot on on how a*%l they are at MAN airport. This is one of the worst UK airport that I have experience where the people there are just on a power run. If your liquids are not in their ‘beloved’ plastic bags even though you had an clear see through bag from another airport, that is NOK, it MUST be in their plastic bag. Every time after I fly through MAN and get this treatment, I will just drop again an email to the airport customer service. In my opinion too many power obsessed security handlers. In general all UK airports are rather a*%l but MAN is the super a*%l one among all. The ones outside of UK which I find again on a power trip is BSL (at least the French side).
    Btw, no trip to MAN is complete without a visit to Canal street…*wink* *wink*

  19. You are in Berlin? Man should have known that earlier to arrange appropriate city tour! If you’re still here, let me know!

  20. I had a similar experience at LHR. #1 they dug the tiny little toothpastes out of an AA amenity kit and made me put those in my ziplock. #2 My ziplock bag had some holes in the sides and they told me it had to be airtight so the bomb detection sniffer machine could do its work. They gave me another ziplock, but it was slightly smaller and I had to throw some stuff away. I felt bad because they were severely understaffed and there were lots of bags getting pulled aside for secondary screening.

    Mind you that this was on my second transit through LHR with the exact same bag. JFK-OK, LHR-OK, TXL-OK, LHR #2-Not okay!

  21. As silly as it may be, if you’re going to be carrying multiple amenity kits like that you’d probably need to remove the liquids and put them in the Ziploc of Safetyness or, if you wanted to preserve them in their unopened state, (and this will make Ben cringe) put them in a checked bag. (I know, the horror…)

    It does seem that most airports in the UK (or at least in England, EDI didn’t seem unduly worked up about it) are unusually militant about the process, and the plastic bag in particular. I saw a fellow American told they couldn’t use their American bag because it “didn’t meet the size standard”, although it was slightly smaller than the bags the airport was selling. (Yes, selling.) I got by OK though that time. Never had a problem at BRS, though.

  22. Thinking that through further, if you got the kits on the flight to MAN you wouldn’t have had access to checked bags even if you had any, right? I’m rusty at international travel, it’s been a while, and too used to the US system.

  23. Traffic… MAN has direct rail links to well over 10 million people, the city itself is a major hub for engineering and media, oh, and if you take local and nearby (Liverpool, Bolton, Oldham…) football teams, well in excess of 200,000 Premiership tickets are sold each week, many to fans visiting from the middle and far east.

  24. First the airport is a shambles aside from the EK lounge, the security is the same everytime so now everything gets checked. The wife ends up in a row with them over something everytime – not that long ago they were charging for the bags!!!

    As for 2 a380s and a 777 MAN has a large catchment area of business travellers going all over the world. It’s more convenient for a lot of people to connect in dubai rather than to go via LHR not to mention significantly cheaper try first for the price of club world on ba where there is no comparison. MAN has a lot of hvc as well lots of plats and golds – the 77w flight will be a 380 soon or MAN will go 4 daily.

  25. “Though worst security I have encountered is at OOL in Aus. If flying internationally you have to go through security TWICE, the first time no one cares if you have liquids the second they do. Absolutely bizarre.”

    That’s because Australia is sensible and doesn’t care about liquids, whereas other countries do (initially forced into it by the US). You can therefore take liquids domestically but not internationally.

    And while I think the liquid rules could only have been created by a complete and utter moron, rules are rules. If they say it’s a 100ml maximum size in a sealed bag, it must be less than 100ml and the bag must seal.

  26. Totally agree with M3Red – if it weren’t for the EK Lounge Id use the 2 class EK from BHX or train it down to London. I’ve had one decent security check in my countless times through there, and I think that’s because he took pity on my apprehensively defeated face! That’s with sticking to the 100ml rules too.

  27. Spot on about Manchester. I am based in Manchester as crew and fall under the same rules and equal amounts of scrutiny every day. Infuriating start to the day!

  28. @o – totally agree about OOL airport. They have the most ridiculous security and have had for years!! Once travelled up with Jetstar using a little trolley for my carry-on bag. It had a non-detachable ockey strap to hold the bag. No trouble through Sydney but OOL didn’t want to let me to take it onboard for the return flight. They eventually let me through with the threat that I would be stopped by the Jetstar crew. Needless to say, the Jetstar crew didn’t look at me twice. And this trolley had made it through security at NYC and LAX prior to that. Hmmm

  29. Not sure why you ventured out to Worsley…to the Cock of all places! Glad you enjoyed Manchester though – there’s definitely a lot to see. Really enjoying this entire trip report, and it’s nice to see a UK city that ISN’T London!!

  30. One of my fave hotels is in Manchester, The Lowry is fantastic including the afternoon tea – downside no earning of points

  31. Thanks for your review of Manchester. However, if you don’t like to follow the rules regarding security then I suggest you don’t travel through Manchester again.

    In comparison to security in the US where there is obviously one rule in one state and a different one in another, (so much so that you rarely know what is right or wrong), here in the UK I feel it is crystal clear and clearly pointed out to travellers. Flout those rules and those doing their job (and remember that’s what they are doing to ensure YOUR safety) will stop you. I have yet to hear security personnel at Manchester shout and scream at those waiting to be screened, unlike in EWR, MCO, ATL, JFK, MIA and AUS.

  32. @peteukmcr — rest assured I don’t plan to transit through MAN again anytime soon. Just to clarify something, airport security in the United States is not handled by states, and hasn’t been for more than a decade. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which handles all airport screening in the U.S., is a federal agency and part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

  33. @peteukmcr,

    I am with you they are doing their job, but the idea that much of what is done by the security screeners at MAN has anything to do with OUR safety is so far wide of the mark it’s funny.

    I took two litres of “baby food” through there last week. I didn’t have to put it in the silly plastic bag because the rules don’t require it. It got the same screening as the things that we did put in the silly plastic bag.

    The screener guessed it was baby food because it was white liquid and I had a baby.

    It could have been anything.

    What did the lack of plastic bag change?

    If I was a terrorist and the only thing preventing me from blowing us all up was the silly plastic bag, I would just take a baby with me and avoid the silly plastic bag altogether.

  34. So the Brits are anal retentive. In other news, Ferdinand Magellan sailed around the world today.

    I am sorry Matt, I don’t mean to be sarcastic towards you, as an ex-London based FT, I am fed up with their security AND rude immigration officers and I avoid their airports like the black plague. Good to hear you will be doing the same. It will save you from a few white hairs.

  35. The worst part of this article seems to suggest that you think that because you travel 1st class you think you should be exempt from following the law. The liquid law is stupid but the fact you have emirates amenity kits doesn’t make you above the law

  36. I have been reading the comments about the liquid rules and how strict and anal it can be and decided to throw in my 2 cents worth.

    I work in Heathrow security and would like to put this into perspective from the other side’s point of view. I cannot comment on other airports but….

    The CAA issues the rules, our job is to make sure that they are followed. We are here to make sure a passenger’s expectation of reaching his/her destination is achieved. Unfortunately, we, as security officers, are stuck between a rock and a hard place. We have to offer customer service to passengers and are also appointed as the ones to take things off passengers if they do not comply. Not a very good position to be in to be honest.

    The 100ml rule has been in force ever since some nut decided to try to blow a plane up with chemical explosives in a soda bottle and unfortunately, if you are not well informed of the rules of air travel, I do have empathy. You say 125ml is hardly anything and should be allowed, why not 130ml or 140 ml? where do we stop? Regarding plastic bags , again a CAA rule, we have to follow it. Why should they be out of your case? The software on the xray machines will pick up liquids and if the density of these liquids is suspect, it will mark it up to the screen reader for testing. Alas, the CAA imposes a full bag search if the bag has to be opened to access the liquids for testing. Wouldn’t it be easier if the liquids were out of the hand luggage to make testing quicker and easier if necessary?

    Regarding baby liquids: yes you are allowed oversized liquids, and they will be rejected for testing if the software finds the density too close to other dangerous chemical compounds. Technology gets better all the time and it does make things easier for screening as well as for the passenger. It used to be that any baby food (jars) had to be tested the old fashioned way, you have 6 jars? Open three and eat some!! Thank God thats in the past, also applied to breast milk! At least now we have the tech to test without having to open the containers.

    If you look up on TSA efficiency regarding detection of threats, use google, you will see that 95% of airports tested, unfortunately failed!! Heads rolled and hopefully things get better. The TSA have one BIG advantage over Heathrow security, they are government employees and as such do not put much emphasis into making sure the passenger enjoys (or at least does not get stressed) the passage through security screening.(less stress for the TSA employees)

    Processes are constantly updated but security is about people, and they make mistakes. You might encounter a security officer who is the most helpful in getting you through (if you do, it would be nice to let their supervisor know, as it is usually the complaints that tend to reach supervisors) or you might get the one who has had a bad day and can’t wait to take it out on someone. No one is perfect.

    We see this from our side as well, some passengers make your day while others (especially the ones who think they are above it all), just like to complain or throw a fit. Again, we have to consider that those passengers may be going through a lot of problems of their own. Human nature…

    Just a small definition of the 100ml rule, it is anythig that is a liquid, gel, cream or paste in a container that has a greater capacity than 100ml. It is not the amount inside the container, but the container capacity that is looked at.

    Regarding what is confiscated off passengers, it gets destroyed, not even the charities get anything out of it. That includes liquids, ammunition, swords, guns, kitchen knives…. and surprisingly, most of the dangerous items confiscated, are taken off transiting passengers (which explains why you have to go through security twice). Not all airports are perfect, nor are the people working there or the passengers travelling through.

    The bottom line in all of this is that security is there for your safety, there are set rules that we have to follow and unfortunately, that might lead to some liquids being disposed of.

    That’s why I never stress about security when I am a passenger, I know why they are there, I know what I have to do to comply and I know this is inevitable and can’t see any change to the experience in the foreseeable future.

    If anyone asked me where I would prefer flying from, I would say the United Kingdom BECAUSE of them being anal and thorough. If there was no security at the airport, how many of the people complaining about security would fly?

  37. Used to live up near the lake district, flew several times out of manchester for my travels… Security at manchester is actually a pain in the backside, it’s just awful, especially for me who carries lots of electronics around. They always flagged both pieces of my luggage, always. Eventually I gave up and started flying out of glasgow instead, mostly because of the security, but I also couldn’t resist picking up lovely bottles of scotch…

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