Episode 9 Rip Off Britain


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Episode 9

The team investigate problems viewers have had at airports, including a costly passport problem and confusion at airport security.


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Transcript


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We asked you who's left you feeling ripped off when it comes to

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your holidays, and you came back with a

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catalogue of travel disasters.

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Holidays are supposed to be a time of relaxing,

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not a time of more stress, and certainly not a time of stress

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whilst you're away.

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It's just annoying, that you think, "What next?

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"What are they going to put a charge on next?"

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So, whether it's a deliberate rip-off,

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a simple mistake or a catch in the small print,

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we'll find out why you're out of pocket and what you can do about it.

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Your stories, your money.

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This is Rip-Off Britain.

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Hello, and welcome once again to Rip-Off Britain.

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Although, as you've probably already spotted, this series,

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we're not in Britain, but Tenerife.

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We're here to investigate some of your stories to do with travel and

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holidays. And, today, we're looking at problems

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that crop up before you've even stepped onto the plane,

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because they're all to do with unexpected disasters at the airport.

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Because airports are often stressful, crowded and confusing.

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And they don't always get you in the holiday mood.

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Indeed, there are lots of people who've given up going abroad,

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just to avoid having to go through them in the first place.

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And it really is true that if something goes wrong at that stage,

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before you've even left the country,

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it can put a real dampener on the start of your trip.

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It's clear that some airports are working hard to improve the

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entire experience. So, as well as some surprising revelations

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to do with things we could all get caught out by

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before we even take off, we'll also take an exclusive look

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behind the scenes at some of the ways they're trying

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to make things better.

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Particularly for those who need that the most.

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Coming up - after one family's brush with security

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led to them missing their flight, we cut through the

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continuing confusion over what you can and can't take on a plane.

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We said, "Well, what do we do now?

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"We've missed it, what do we do?"

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So, he said, "We can book you on another flight tomorrow morning,

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"exactly the same, but you have to pay."

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And, if the hi-tech chip in your passport suddenly stops working,

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should it be you that has to stump up for a new one?

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I'm in a bit of a tricky situation,

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but the alternative is to fork out for a new passport

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and spend all that money, when, actually, what if I have

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the same problem again?

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It seems incredible to think that nearly 16 years have passed

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since the September 11th terrorist attacks on the US.

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That date marked not only a pivotal turning point

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in world events, but also the moment that triggered a complete overhaul

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of airport security. Since then, many measures have been introduced

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to ensure that flying remains the safest way to travel,

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from biometric security to full-body scans.

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And, of course, there's the one that most of us will be familiar with -

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limits on what liquids and toiletries you're allowed to take

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onto the plane.

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It's all completely understandable and necessary, of course,

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but some of you have contacted us to say you're confused

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about those rules on liquids, unsure of what and how much

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is allowed on board.

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The check for potentially dangerous items, just before security,

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has become a familiar part of airport travel.

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But even if you're confident you know what is and isn't permitted,

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you can get caught out by the rules,

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and end up having something confiscated.

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I think it's a bit silly, I have a little, tiny liquid and a deodorant,

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and it would be quite easy to see and know that it's deodorant.

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So it's always a bit of a hassle to do this.

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With all the attacks there's been in airports,

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you might as well be as safe as possible.

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There's nothing more infuriating than standing behind people

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in a queue, and their bag's held up cos they've got bottles of water

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and bottles of perfume. It's been in place long enough

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that we should all know. And it's for our own safety.

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Every year, hundreds of tonnes of banned substances end up

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having to be dumped by passengers at the last minute.

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And the items that prove contentious aren't necessarily

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the ones you might expect.

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Enjoying your milk?

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Eva Fernandez, from Barry Island in South Wales, is 16 months old.

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But when she, her grandmother, Yvonne Delaney,

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and other family members were jetting off to Barcelona,

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she was aged just three months.

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Her life would revolve around milk,

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so that bottle's very important to her.

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So, when we go away or when we go anywhere,

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we always have the bottle ready, just in case we're held up anywhere.

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Eva's grandparents had planned a four-day trip to Spain

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as a pick-me-up after what had been a difficult pregnancy,

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when even Eva's mum, Caroline, developed pre-eclampsia.

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Pre-eclampsia could kill the baby and the mother.

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We didn't realise until very late in the pregnancy that she was suffering

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from this.

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They booked early morning flights through easyJet from Luton,

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packing two cartons of milk formula powder and some liquid milk for Eva

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in their hand luggage.

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We'd already checked in online, we had all the documentation.

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Our flight was 6.50.

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We must have checked in about 4.45.

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Then we went to security, and that's where it

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all went horribly wrong.

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A security officer screened their pram and hand luggage.

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They'd taken the pram away, which was not a problem.

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And then, obviously, individually, we were screened,

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and then they started on the milk formula.

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Took away one box.

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You might think powdered milk would cause no problem at security.

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After all, it's not on the list of items that are banned.

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But it could, potentially, be mistaken

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for other banned substances, including drugs.

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I'm a lay person, don't know anything about narcotics.

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But it's baby formula.

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But, of course, time was going on then

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through security, we knew it was.

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The team returned with an all-clear for the carton of powder

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they'd analysed.

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We thought we were ready to go, we were getting geared up to leave.

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Then they took the other carton for analysis.

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Time was ticking by, so we tried to alert easyJet personnel to say,

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"Look, we need to catch this flight."

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But we didn't get any sort of...

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No, they just ambled through.

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We were just losing hope, really, that we'd get to the gate.

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I remember Caroline saying, "Well, we could still make it,

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"because we've still got some time."

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When we got there, a person from easyJet was there to say, you know,

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"It's too late, the gate's closed now."

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But we said, "But we've still got some time,

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"and our baggage is on there."

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And she said, "No, it's closed."

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It was just very disappointing, very disappointing.

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And the incident had an expensive sting in the tail,

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when they spoke to the man on the easyJet desk.

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We said, "Well, what do we do now?

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"We've missed it, what do we do?"

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So, he said, "We can book you on another flight in the morning,

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"exactly the same, but you have to pay."

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They just washed their hands of it.

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It's easyJet's line, isn't it?

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It's your responsibility to get to the gate.

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The family had to pay for another night in the airport hotel

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to make the early flight time, plus, of course,

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for the flights themselves.

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It cost us £250 for the hotel for the night

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for the two rooms.

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And then it cost us a further £250 for the flights.

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So £500.

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The most disappointing point was that we were actually...

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We weren't in Barcelona.

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You've missed the flight, and you've actually missed the holiday.

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You know you've missed one whole day and night in the hotel in Barcelona.

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Well, easyJet's version of events isn't quite the same as Yvonne's

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as the airline say all this stemmed from the family arriving too late

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at the airport, leaving only six minutes to clear security

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before they needed to be at the gate.

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It went on to say that it always asks that...

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That was reiterated by Luton Airport, which,

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while stressing that...

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..told us it recommends allowing two to three hours to drop off baggage

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and pass through security,

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adding that home-prepared bottles of sterilised breast or cow's milk

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above 100ml are permitted for those travelling with infants.

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The airport also said that those travelling with formula

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should ensure it's available for inspection, and...

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Yvonne's story is a reminder that we all risk security delays if there's

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anything in our hand luggage an officer might think

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could be prohibited.

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But, a decade on from the terrorist threat which first led to the ban on

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liquids, aerosols and gels,

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it's clear there's still confusion over what can and can't

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be carried in your hand luggage,

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resulting in all these goods being confiscated on the way to the gate.

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The controls were introduced in 2006,

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after a terrorist plot to create an explosive device on board from

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hazardous ingredients, carried in seemingly ordinary containers.

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So how much do passengers here at Manchester Airport know about what's

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banned and what isn't?

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We put some of them to the test, with the help of our travel guru,

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Simon Calder.

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Even though the LAGs rules - liquids, aerosols and gels -

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have been with us for over a decade now,

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there's still huge amounts of confusion about what's allowed

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and what isn't.

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For instance, here's a snow globe and a grapefruit.

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Similar volumes. Is either allowed? Are both allowed?

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I'm going to ask the Great British public what they think.

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I'm going to start off with this.

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-Banned.

-Banned.

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-Banned.

-I'd say it's probably allowed.

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I'd say it's probably banned.

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-Yep, banned.

-Banned, it is.

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More water gets thrown away than anything else.

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There is an easy way around it.

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I always take an empty water bottle through the security checkpoint,

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which, of course, is allowed,

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and then ask the nice people at a cafe or restaurant

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to fill it up with water, which they do, with a smile.

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Also on the subject of liquids, allowed or banned?

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-Banned.

-I'd say banned cos it's got liquid in it.

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That amount, allowed.

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Right, OK. I know why you're saying that,

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cos that's clearly less than 100ml.

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But, it's the size of the container that counts, so, I'm afraid,

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you're wrong, but it's understandable.

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We've got two things, very similar volume.

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Not allowed.

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I'm going to say allowed, it's food.

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Banned.

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-I'd say that's allowed.

-Allowed.

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Yep, ooh, I'm afraid, Linda, it's allowed.

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Definitely is. Also very good for you, lots of vitamin C.

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Good for a long flight.

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What about this lovely chap?

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Erm, I would say that's probably banned.

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I think it might be allowed, actually.

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-Banned.

-Right.

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-Oh, Linda...

-I'm wrong again!

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No, I'm so sorry!

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That's right, the snow globe is also on the banned list,

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and should go into the hold.

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It just shows how much confusion there is.

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Because the security staff can't tell

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what the volume is, they'll just say it's banned.

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Let's see if they do any better with these next items.

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From liquids to sharps,

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and here we have nail scissors and a Swiss Army knife.

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-ALL:

-Banned.

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Well, no.

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These are both allowed because the blade is less than 6cm,

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just over a couple of inches.

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Now, having said that,

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security staff may confiscate other stuff if they consider it a risk,

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even if it normally is allowed through hand luggage.

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Love it or hate it, Marmite.

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-Hate it.

-You hate it, OK.

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Should be banned.

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OK, allowed or banned? Whether or not you like it.

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I'd say it's probably allowed.

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-Yeah.

-Yeah, allowed.

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No.

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It's 125ml of gel, they count it as.

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And so, therefore, they won't let it through.

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And, finally, this is baby milk, 200ml, allowed or banned?

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Allowed, I'm going to say allowed, because you need it.

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Banned.

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Alan, I'm glad to see you're defiantly sticking to your answers,

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but, again, you're wrong. Assuming you've got a baby, that is,

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you're allowed to take a reasonable quantity of baby milk,

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even if it's above 100ml.

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So this is allowed.

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Quite alarming results here.

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I've just totalled them up, and half the time

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people are wrong about what's allowed and what isn't allowed

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through the security check.

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Of course, make sure, online, that you know what the rules are.

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Bear in mind that they may be different when you're coming back

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from when you're leaving Britain. And, if in doubt,

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leave it out or put it in your checked baggage.

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Of course, it's not just the people we tested who get this wrong.

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In fact, Manchester Airport says that passengers failing to follow

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the rules on liquids occupies more of their security officers' time

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than any other issue.

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I think it's fair to say that it does cause some frustration

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for our customers. However, what we do find is

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most people understand that the safety and security

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is of our utmost importance.

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We can't quantify the actual cost of this operation to us as

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an airport, but just to give an indication, on average,

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one in five trays do get rejected as a result of liquids and gels.

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And they then need to be taken off the load and rescreened,

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which does cause operational challenges during busy times.

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At Manchester, a staggering 80 wheelie bins a day

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are sent off for recycling.

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Some of them are driven away by Andy Dwyer,

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of Mitie waste and environmental.

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The stuff that people turn up with, I mean,

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we have a collection from the terminals which is called

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the sharps collection. In the sharps collections,

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it's just knives and forks, which people are going to

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the holiday homes with.

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They don't put them in their suitcases,

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they put them in their hand luggage, for some strange reason,

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don't really know why. Their suntan lotions, they put them

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in their hand luggage.

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Why would you do that? Put them in your suitcase.

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This is where the dumped material is brought,

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to a site just outside the airport, where it's crushed,

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and the liquid is drained off.

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Everything we collect, that is recyclable,

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comes into this hazardous waste compound.

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For example, passengers bring lighters.

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They are allowed to take a lighter on board

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if it's in a clear bag.

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Unfortunately, not everybody listens to that.

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These are the plastic bottles, this is the end product,

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if you will, the bales that we do weekly.

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Same thing again with the cans.

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Aluminium and steel.

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It's such a lot of waste,

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cos people don't think about what they're bringing to the airport.

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So will the ban on liquids go on forever?

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Well, the Department for Transport says it keeps security measures

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under constant review,

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and it would encourage all passengers to plan their trips

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and check with their airline on restrictions before setting off.

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How does the future look?

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Well, the airports and the airlines are working toward

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something called smart security,

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so you won't need to worry about liquids any more.

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You'll just walk through a corridor,

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all the way from check-in to departures,

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pretty unaware that you're being screened.

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When's that going to happen?

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I absolutely don't know, neither do they.

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But, in the meantime,

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all you can do is do your best to know what the rules are.

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I'm sure none of you need reminding that,

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if you're going to be going on holiday outside of the UK,

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you aren't going to get very far without one of these -

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a passport. Indeed, over the last decade,

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each new one issued has included a biometric chip.

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It's designed to be scanned at customs to make the whole process

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a lot quicker and more secure.

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But though the passport itself is valid for ten years,

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some of you have found that the chip inside

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can fail long before then.

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Which, as far as some countries are concerned,

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means that the passport is invalid.

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So we've taken a close look at why these chips just might go wrong,

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and what to do if yours could also be affected.

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The passport is perhaps the most enduring feature

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of international travel,

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and has been key to giving us access

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to faraway lands for centuries.

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And for Ali Mahoney, her passport isn't just an essential requirement,

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it's a reminder of all the interesting places

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she's visited around the world.

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Indonesia's stamp is probably the most attractive stamp that I had

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in the passport. I've also got the stamp for Argentina,

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when I went to Buenos Aires, which was a really interesting week away.

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Another fond memory is from Fiji.

0:17:290:17:32

But on her last few trips abroad,

0:17:320:17:34

her passport hasn't been giving her the smooth passage through customs

0:17:340:17:38

that she's been used to. Though she didn't initially realise

0:17:380:17:41

the significance, her problems began on her return

0:17:410:17:44

from a skiing holiday in 2015.

0:17:440:17:46

On my way back from Geneva was the first time that I was stopped

0:17:480:17:52

and kind of interrogated in more depth.

0:17:520:17:54

It made me feel pretty uncomfortable and quite embarrassed.

0:17:540:17:57

But, at that time, I wasn't thinking it was a problem with my passport,

0:17:570:18:00

I was thinking perhaps there was a problem

0:18:000:18:02

that they found with me and my travel.

0:18:020:18:04

But a month later, on her way back from a trip to Malta,

0:18:060:18:09

Ali was stopped at passport control again.

0:18:090:18:12

Similar thing happened at the passport control.

0:18:140:18:17

I was stopped at the desk.

0:18:170:18:19

It wasn't the usual quick pass through.

0:18:190:18:21

Again, it was quite an in-depth interrogation,

0:18:210:18:25

and the passport being flicked through, several pages,

0:18:250:18:27

lots of different questions.

0:18:270:18:30

And it was at that time that the officer suggested that, perhaps,

0:18:300:18:33

there might be a problem with the chip in my passport,

0:18:330:18:35

which made me think, "OK, perhaps it it's not me,

0:18:350:18:38

"perhaps it is actually my passport."

0:18:380:18:40

The officer suggested that the biometric chip in her passport -

0:18:400:18:45

the technology that stores all the personal information about you -

0:18:450:18:48

might not be working.

0:18:480:18:50

So when she got home, Ali did some online research into these chips,

0:18:500:18:54

and found that they may not always be as robust as you might expect.

0:18:540:18:58

Through some of the research that I did online,

0:19:000:19:02

there were question marks

0:19:020:19:03

over whether the chips could withstand the

0:19:030:19:06

real-life usage of a ten-year passport,

0:19:060:19:08

and that's what made me contact the Passport Office

0:19:080:19:11

and ask for them to look into my passport.

0:19:110:19:14

After an investigation, the Passport Office got back to Ali, saying that,

0:19:140:19:18

while normally the chips are covered by a warranty that lasts as long as

0:19:180:19:22

the passport itself - usually ten years - in her case,

0:19:220:19:25

that wasn't going to apply.

0:19:250:19:27

She was told she must have damaged the chip

0:19:270:19:29

and, as such, the warranty was void,

0:19:290:19:31

and she'd have to stump up the cost of a replacement.

0:19:310:19:34

When they returned it and said that I'd caused the damage

0:19:340:19:37

and it made the chip not work any more,

0:19:370:19:40

I was so frustrated.

0:19:400:19:42

I keep my passport in a leather wallet when I'm travelling

0:19:420:19:46

and when I'm at home, so it's always stored nice and safe.

0:19:460:19:50

It's not rolling around in a bag or anything like that -

0:19:500:19:53

it's always kept in good condition, because it has to,

0:19:530:19:57

it has to last me ten years.

0:19:570:19:59

But Ali couldn't see why she should have to fork out for a new passport

0:19:590:20:03

only four years after getting the last one.

0:20:030:20:05

Not least when, as far as she's concerned,

0:20:050:20:07

she really has done her best to keep it in good condition.

0:20:070:20:11

I sent it off a second time

0:20:110:20:13

with a letter highlighting the fact that the damage -

0:20:130:20:16

or the so-called damage -

0:20:160:20:17

was so small that it was barely visible to the human eye, and that,

0:20:170:20:21

as a consumer, as someone who paid quite a lot of money for this new

0:20:210:20:26

biometric passport, that I felt that I should be given a replacement.

0:20:260:20:30

I was really annoyed at that point,

0:20:300:20:31

and I was hoping for a more positive response.

0:20:310:20:35

But the Passport Office refused to budge,

0:20:350:20:37

insisting that the only option was to buy a new one.

0:20:370:20:40

Ali is simply not prepared to do that.

0:20:400:20:42

But the decision to stick to her guns and continue using the old one,

0:20:420:20:45

fault and all, means, at best,

0:20:450:20:47

she risks further interrogations on future trips abroad.

0:20:470:20:51

And at worst, some countries might not even let her in

0:20:510:20:54

without a biometric chip that works.

0:20:540:20:56

I'm in a bit of a tricky situation,

0:20:560:20:58

because I've chosen to keep the passport, travel on it,

0:20:580:21:02

knowing that I could encounter problems at immigration.

0:21:020:21:06

But the alternative is to fork out for a new passport and spend all

0:21:070:21:12

that money, when, actually, what if I have the same problem again?

0:21:120:21:15

So I think I'd rather keep it for the time being,

0:21:150:21:18

do some further investigation.

0:21:180:21:19

Well, to help with her investigations,

0:21:230:21:25

we've arranged for Ali to meet someone who knows a thing or two

0:21:250:21:28

about biometric chips.

0:21:280:21:30

Adam Laurie has been working as a legal hacker for over 30 years.

0:21:300:21:34

He works with big companies to test the security of their products...

0:21:340:21:37

-ALI:

-Hey, how you doing?

-Hi, I'm Adam, nice to meet you.

0:21:370:21:40

..by trying to hack into them.

0:21:400:21:42

First of all, let's just have a quick look, physically.

0:21:430:21:46

It'll be interesting to see what

0:21:460:21:48

you think of its physical condition.

0:21:480:21:50

Oh, that looks pretty pristine to me.

0:21:500:21:52

So this is one of the new ones, where

0:21:520:21:56

-the passport... The chip's actually in one of the covers.

-Yeah.

0:21:560:22:00

Adam thinks that, because the new-style passports have chips

0:22:010:22:04

buried in the front cover, they may be susceptible to more damage.

0:22:040:22:09

And you can see what he means when he compares it to an older version.

0:22:090:22:13

In the older one, it was on the back of the...

0:22:130:22:16

So I've got an old model here.

0:22:160:22:17

-Oh, yeah.

-And you can see, it's on its own, separate page,

0:22:190:22:22

and you can really see...

0:22:220:22:24

So that's the back of the ID page...

0:22:240:22:26

-I see.

-..and it's sort of,

0:22:260:22:28

-you know, really thick and hard.

-Yeah.

0:22:280:22:31

What's more, in the older passport,

0:22:310:22:33

it's really easy to see what may be wrong with the chip.

0:22:330:22:37

And that's what's actually inside. So you've got an antenna,

0:22:370:22:40

-and you've got a chip, and it's connected by these two wires.

-Mm-hm.

0:22:400:22:45

And if you look closely, I mean, you'll see -

0:22:450:22:47

-they're really, really thin.

-Sure.

0:22:470:22:49

-So, potentially, they are quite fragile.

-Yeah.

0:22:490:22:53

So that's actually a pretty good way of doing it.

0:22:530:22:57

-That's a really solid place, and it's closed inside.

-Sure.

0:22:570:23:00

-It's got another cover on either side.

-Uh-huh.

0:23:000:23:03

But with the version Ali has,

0:23:030:23:05

there isn't a way of looking at the chip without damaging the passport.

0:23:050:23:08

So all Adam can do is use an electronic scanner,

0:23:080:23:11

like the ones found at customs,

0:23:110:23:13

to see if the chip has any signs of life in it at all.

0:23:130:23:16

-The moment of truth.

-OK.

-You want to know, is it actually going to work?

0:23:160:23:20

HE INHALES

0:23:200:23:21

-The answer is no.

-No.

-So that really is dead.

0:23:210:23:25

The Passport Office are not mistaken

0:23:250:23:27

-when they say your chip has failed.

-Uh-huh.

0:23:270:23:30

And yet, whilst it's clear that the chip inside isn't working,

0:23:300:23:34

any damage to the outside of the passport is barely visible.

0:23:340:23:37

There's a little bump, just there,

0:23:370:23:40

and if you get the light at the right angle, you can see it.

0:23:400:23:44

So, what might have caused the chip to fail?

0:23:440:23:48

There's a couple of things that could have happened.

0:23:480:23:50

It could have detached the wire where it's connected.

0:23:500:23:53

The second is, it could have actually dented

0:23:530:23:56

into the chip itself, and cracked the silicon.

0:23:560:24:00

But Ali remains convinced that, if the chips are so fragile,

0:24:010:24:04

especially in a document that's inevitably going to get

0:24:040:24:07

the odd knock while you're travelling,

0:24:070:24:09

she should be issued with a new one free of charge.

0:24:090:24:12

-This passport is valid until 2022...

-Right.

-..but the chip,

0:24:120:24:16

-from the test that we've done...

-Is definitely dead.

-..it's obvious

0:24:160:24:19

that it doesn't work. So in terms of when I travel next...

0:24:190:24:22

..you know, I've got this fear of approaching the gate

0:24:230:24:27

-to pass through.

-Yeah.

0:24:270:24:29

As a consumer, I feel that I've been a bit hard done by

0:24:290:24:32

in terms of, well,

0:24:320:24:34

you know, look at the damage, and, you know,

0:24:340:24:36

is that really my fault?

0:24:360:24:38

Well, an obvious question raised by all this is whether the chip in your

0:24:380:24:42

passport might pack up, too.

0:24:420:24:43

And Adam believes that, whilst the latest biometric technology has many

0:24:430:24:47

advantages in terms of security, where the chip is now placed -

0:24:470:24:51

just behind the front cover -

0:24:510:24:52

does mean it may be more susceptible to damage.

0:24:520:24:55

So would you say that the design of the older passport, then,

0:24:550:24:58

is more robust and resilient than the newer design?

0:24:580:25:02

Just looking at them, clearly, you know?

0:25:030:25:05

This is the old design -

0:25:050:25:07

very well-used, quite tatty-looking.

0:25:070:25:11

This is the new design,

0:25:110:25:12

actually looks pretty good condition compared to that one.

0:25:120:25:15

And that one's dead, old one's still perfectly functional.

0:25:150:25:19

They're not robust at all.

0:25:190:25:21

I mean, the chip and the circuit is extremely fragile.

0:25:210:25:25

The passport is probably one of

0:25:250:25:27

the least robust environments

0:25:270:25:30

that you will ever see these things deployed in.

0:25:300:25:33

Well, when we contacted the Home Office,

0:25:330:25:35

it reiterated what Ali was told -

0:25:350:25:37

that if passports are damaged after issue,

0:25:370:25:39

they won't be replaced free of charge.

0:25:390:25:42

But in response to a Freedom Of Information request,

0:25:420:25:45

the Passport Office says it received 4,126 complaints

0:25:450:25:49

about faulty passports since 2012.

0:25:490:25:52

Although it couldn't tell us how many of those

0:25:520:25:54

were due to faulty chips.

0:25:540:25:55

It said, however, that the chips had been subject to tests

0:25:550:25:58

to see how they responded to wear and tear, and, once again,

0:25:580:26:02

said that the chip is generally covered

0:26:020:26:04

by a warranty that lasts the lifetime of a passport.

0:26:040:26:08

But you can see why Ali is left wondering what damage she

0:26:080:26:11

could possibly have caused for that warranty to be invalidated.

0:26:110:26:15

She remains resolute that she won't pay to replace a passport

0:26:150:26:19

that she considers to be faulty...

0:26:190:26:20

-Thanks for all your help, cheers.

-No worries.

-See you.

-Cheers.

0:26:200:26:23

..although, of course, she does worry about the risks

0:26:230:26:27

of continuing to use the old one.

0:26:270:26:29

The whole process has left me feeling really frustrated

0:26:290:26:32

and disappointed and, you know, not listened to.

0:26:320:26:35

And I do worry about travelling.

0:26:350:26:38

But at the same time, I do feel like I should stand up for my rights.

0:26:380:26:41

Still to come on Rip-Off Britain...

0:26:480:26:50

How a ground-breaking in new scheme could transform the stresses of the

0:26:500:26:54

airport for passengers, like this mum and her autistic son.

0:26:540:26:57

The check-in is absolutely my worst nightmare.

0:26:580:27:00

Look at the amount of people.

0:27:000:27:02

So, yeah, I'm kind of worried how we're going to handle this.

0:27:020:27:06

Our travel expert, Simon Calder,

0:27:100:27:12

has all the secrets to save you money on your travels.

0:27:120:27:15

He's full of tips, from everything on how to avoid the crowds,

0:27:150:27:18

to the best way to steer clear of all those tourist traps.

0:27:180:27:21

This time, destinations all the family will enjoy.

0:27:230:27:27

In the olden days,

0:27:270:27:29

the family holiday was centred squarely on parents and children.

0:27:290:27:33

But, in the 21st century, we've gone all multi-generational,

0:27:330:27:37

with grandparents often coming along for the ride.

0:27:370:27:41

So one size doesn't necessarily fit all any more.

0:27:410:27:46

So Simon's been checking out which places around Europe would be

0:27:460:27:50

suitable for mum, dad, grandad, grandma AND the kids.

0:27:500:27:54

The Mediterranean has plenty of locations suitable

0:27:560:28:00

for families with mixed levels of mobility and energy.

0:28:000:28:04

But, for me, there's one place that stands out -

0:28:040:28:07

Marseille is the only city on the Mediterranean

0:28:070:28:11

directly accessible by train from Britain.

0:28:110:28:14

And the six-hour ride, the length of France,

0:28:140:28:17

is an added bonus.

0:28:170:28:20

Marseille is an ancient city,

0:28:200:28:21

but recently it's been made much more accessible for people with

0:28:210:28:25

limited mobility. There's an excellent beach nearby.

0:28:250:28:29

And it's got one of the most atmospheric locations

0:28:290:28:32

for a sundowner and dinner - the old harbour.

0:28:320:28:35

With budget hotels thick on the ground,

0:28:350:28:38

accommodation is excellent value, too.

0:28:380:28:41

If a city doesn't appeal,

0:28:410:28:43

Simon suggests looking into one of the companies that specialise in

0:28:430:28:46

resorts catering for family members who fancy trying out things like

0:28:460:28:50

sailing, and those who prefer relaxing in the sun.

0:28:500:28:53

Consider a beach-side activity holiday,

0:28:530:28:57

where you stay at a property overlooking the sea,

0:28:570:29:00

with most or all of your meals included.

0:29:000:29:02

There's a million activities on offer,

0:29:020:29:05

as well as childcare for younger members of the party,

0:29:050:29:08

and a traditional pool for more sedentary folk

0:29:080:29:12

to lounge around.

0:29:120:29:13

We all know how much more expensive travelling can be during school

0:29:130:29:17

holidays, but Simon's found some less-celebrated destinations, where,

0:29:170:29:21

even at peak times, you can have a fabulous,

0:29:210:29:23

multi-generational holiday on a budget.

0:29:230:29:26

I reckon a close approximation to perfection is the

0:29:260:29:30

northern Spanish city of San Sebastian.

0:29:300:29:33

There's a big, safe beach and, wrapping around it,

0:29:330:29:37

a broad, flat promenade that makes an easy stroll,

0:29:370:29:40

and is also easily manoeuvrable by buggies and wheelchairs.

0:29:400:29:45

The old town in San Sebastian contains

0:29:460:29:48

some of the finest restaurants in Europe,

0:29:480:29:50

as well as lovely, old cafes and bars.

0:29:500:29:53

But there's a big draw for those who are active, too.

0:29:530:29:57

The hyperactive members of the party

0:29:570:30:00

can burn of excess energy with a

0:30:000:30:02

strenuous two-hour hike over the hills and far away

0:30:020:30:07

to the Basque village of Pasaia San Pedro.

0:30:070:30:10

Now, for even the most seasoned of travellers,

0:30:160:30:19

the airport can be a very, very stressful place,

0:30:190:30:22

with the crowds of people - and luggage, of course -

0:30:220:30:24

trying to navigate the confusion of all those check-in desks.

0:30:240:30:27

And, naturally, the general hubbub of the entire place.

0:30:270:30:30

So it's perhaps not surprising that many people with conditions like

0:30:300:30:34

autism or dementia - along, naturally, with their families -

0:30:340:30:38

tend to avoid them if at all possible,

0:30:380:30:40

and, perhaps, as a result, rarely venture out of the UK at all.

0:30:400:30:44

However, one airport, recognising this, has launched a scheme,

0:30:440:30:48

and it hopes that it will give those who need a bit of help

0:30:480:30:51

a much smoother ride.

0:30:510:30:52

Well, we went along to see what difference it's made

0:30:520:30:55

to one mum and her son's journey.

0:30:550:30:57

For some people, travelling through an airport

0:31:000:31:02

is more stressful than work or moving home.

0:31:020:31:05

And it's enough to put four million of us

0:31:050:31:07

off air travel altogether.

0:31:070:31:09

Here we go!

0:31:090:31:11

Maria Cook from Bristol does still go to the airport

0:31:130:31:16

with eight-year-old son Ryan, who was diagnosed with autism

0:31:160:31:19

when he was only two.

0:31:190:31:20

But after the difficulties they've had on their annual trips abroad,

0:31:200:31:24

she does sometimes question whether it's all worth it.

0:31:240:31:26

Oh, he's lovely.

0:31:260:31:28

In the past, we had some horrendous experiences at the airport.

0:31:280:31:31

For someone with autism,

0:31:310:31:33

it's really hard for them to understand

0:31:330:31:35

why they have to be touched,

0:31:350:31:37

why their bags are being taken away from them,

0:31:370:31:39

why other people are touching their things.

0:31:390:31:42

It manifests itself in so many different types of behaviours,

0:31:420:31:45

through being so upset and distressed, high anxiety,

0:31:450:31:48

and actual, violent, you know, meltdowns.

0:31:480:31:51

Ba-ba-baaa!

0:31:510:31:52

Over the last few years,

0:31:540:31:55

airports have come under fire for failing to adequately assist

0:31:550:31:59

passengers like Ryan who live with what's usually described

0:31:590:32:02

as a hidden disability.

0:32:020:32:05

For example, the singer Susan Boyle, who has Asperger's syndrome,

0:32:050:32:08

made the headlines last year after claiming that police treated her

0:32:080:32:12

like an animal when her condition caused her to have a meltdown

0:32:120:32:15

at Heathrow Airport before her flight.

0:32:150:32:18

And Maria has certainly come up against her fair share of challenges

0:32:180:32:22

when travelling through an airport with Ryan.

0:32:220:32:25

In the past, I've asked for security personnel

0:32:250:32:27

to just please be guided by what I'm suggesting

0:32:270:32:31

we can do to get through the procedures.

0:32:310:32:34

One guy, a few years ago, chose to ignore my advice and, I said,

0:32:340:32:38

"Please don't touch my son - he won't like it,

0:32:380:32:41

"he will lash out at you."

0:32:410:32:42

He chose to ignore it, and he got a kick in the face.

0:32:420:32:45

That's Ryan saying, "Leave me alone, I don't like this."

0:32:450:32:49

You know, and that's the only way that he can communicate.

0:32:490:32:52

Maria feels that airports need to step up their game when it comes

0:32:540:32:58

to understanding the needs of passengers with hidden disabilities.

0:32:580:33:01

Airports really need to get some awareness training about hidden

0:33:010:33:05

disabilities. Airports are so busy, and everyone's on a time schedule,

0:33:050:33:08

obviously, fully appreciate that.

0:33:080:33:10

But for somebody with a hidden disability,

0:33:100:33:12

they should just give them more time

0:33:120:33:15

to process and make more time for them,

0:33:150:33:18

because that is key.

0:33:180:33:20

Well, it's good news, because it appears that some UK airports

0:33:220:33:25

have started to listen to people like Maria,

0:33:250:33:27

and are working hard to improve the service they offer.

0:33:270:33:31

Last summer, for example,

0:33:310:33:32

Heathrow declared itself the world's first dementia-friendly airport,

0:33:320:33:36

with 300 staff specially trained to help spot and assist passengers

0:33:360:33:41

with the condition.

0:33:410:33:42

Liverpool's John Lennon Airport allows passengers with

0:33:420:33:45

hidden disabilities to visit the airport in advance of their trip

0:33:450:33:49

to do a dummy run through their mock security desk

0:33:490:33:52

so that they'll feel more relaxed when it comes to fly for real.

0:33:520:33:56

Meanwhile, Gatwick has come up with an idea it's hoped will ease some of

0:33:560:34:00

the pressures associated with travelling through a busy airport,

0:34:000:34:03

and we've arranged for Maria and Ryan to put it to the test.

0:34:030:34:06

But no sooner have they got there

0:34:060:34:08

than Maria's reminded of everything her son finds difficult.

0:34:080:34:13

Coming to the airport is probably one of the most stressful things for

0:34:130:34:16

someone with autism.

0:34:160:34:19

It's so noisy, it's very bright,

0:34:190:34:21

there's lots of smells and sounds.

0:34:210:34:23

As soon as we arrived here today,

0:34:250:34:27

Ryan pushed his ear lobe up into his ears because, straightaway,

0:34:270:34:29

the noise level was too much for him - he needed to block it out.

0:34:290:34:32

That's why these ear defenders are

0:34:320:34:34

such a vital piece of equipment for him.

0:34:340:34:37

Over the years, Maria has developed her own strategies for helping Ryan

0:34:370:34:41

become more desensitised to the airport environment.

0:34:410:34:45

We use lots of visuals for Ryan.

0:34:450:34:47

We've got lots of photographs of the airport, of the plane,

0:34:470:34:49

and so we can then talk through the routine

0:34:490:34:53

of what we're going to be following.

0:34:530:34:55

One fantastic thing that we find that really helps is having

0:34:550:34:58

the iPad. And now, on the plane, you can have them on flight-safe mode,

0:34:580:35:02

so I know, once he's on the plane,

0:35:020:35:04

we can hopefully try and distract him with the iPad.

0:35:040:35:08

Gatwick's new initiative is to give out lanyards to passengers

0:35:080:35:12

with hidden disabilities to act as a subtle indicator to staff

0:35:120:35:16

that they may require additional assistance.

0:35:160:35:18

Passengers can e-mail the airport in advance,

0:35:180:35:21

and then either have the lanyard posted out to them, or,

0:35:210:35:24

as Maria and Ryan are doing,

0:35:240:35:25

simply collect them at the help desk on the day.

0:35:250:35:28

-Hi, good morning.

-Hello, good morning.

0:35:280:35:30

I'm here to pick up what I believe is a lanyard to help with the hidden

0:35:300:35:32

disability assistance service?

0:35:320:35:34

Yes, we have one here for you. Do you need the assistance from here,

0:35:340:35:36

or are you OK to make your own way through security?

0:35:360:35:38

If someone's available to help us through security,

0:35:380:35:40

that would be fantastic, cos I've got a lot of bags,

0:35:400:35:43

and my son does get really, really stressed going through security.

0:35:430:35:46

So if someone can help me so I can help my son,

0:35:460:35:48

that would be fantastic.

0:35:480:35:50

Brilliant, thank you very much.

0:35:500:35:51

Ryan, can we say bye-bye?

0:35:510:35:53

-MAN:

-Bye.

0:35:530:35:54

Since the scheme was launched,

0:35:560:35:58

well over 3,000 people have used the lanyard system here at Gatwick.

0:35:580:36:02

The staff do know how to look out for anyone wearing one,

0:36:020:36:05

and offer whatever help is required.

0:36:050:36:07

-British Airways!

-It is British Airways.

0:36:070:36:09

I think it's a really, really fantastic idea,

0:36:090:36:12

that it's not like having a great big arrow pointing at us,

0:36:120:36:15

it's just something very, very subtle, and it's there to help us.

0:36:150:36:19

And also, that is great peace of mind for myself, too,

0:36:190:36:23

to know that there's someone there, that's said, "It's OK, Maria,

0:36:230:36:25

"we can help you, and we're going to make sure that your journey

0:36:250:36:29

"and passage through the airport is as stress-free as possible."

0:36:290:36:32

So, yeah, fingers crossed, this is looking good.

0:36:320:36:35

But before Maria and Ryan can tackle getting through security,

0:36:350:36:39

they first of all need to check in.

0:36:390:36:41

And while, to many of us, that may seem simple enough, for Maria,

0:36:410:36:44

it's a real worry.

0:36:440:36:47

The check-in is absolutely my worst nightmare.

0:36:470:36:49

Look at the amount of people.

0:36:490:36:51

Um, so, yeah, I'm kind of worried how we're going to handle this.

0:36:510:36:55

But I've got my lanyard, and I've got someone here to help me, so,

0:36:550:36:58

hopefully, we'll be able to get through this as quick

0:36:580:37:01

-and as stress-free as possible.

-RYAN:

-British Airways.

0:37:010:37:03

-This way.

-That way.

-That way!

-That way!

0:37:030:37:06

Thanks to the additional support,

0:37:100:37:12

Maria and Ryan pass through check-in like a breeze.

0:37:120:37:15

But next up is another huge hurdle - security.

0:37:150:37:20

Obviously, it's not ideal when my son kicks out and lashes out

0:37:200:37:23

at security staff, which has happened in the past.

0:37:230:37:25

Hopefully, with the assistance and the understanding, and obviously

0:37:250:37:28

the lanyard, the security are going to be aware, that, "Actually,

0:37:280:37:32

"let's treat this family with some respect and understanding."

0:37:320:37:35

Maria's still rather nervous about going through security,

0:37:370:37:40

but she's got her lanyard and, this time,

0:37:400:37:42

she and Ryan are passing through a fast-track, assisted security lane.

0:37:420:37:46

So hopefully that will make things a little easier.

0:37:460:37:50

Right now, I'm a little bit anxious, cos it's still the unknown,

0:37:500:37:53

but I'm really excited, because I'm really hopeful,

0:37:530:37:56

with all the help and assistance we've had so far.

0:37:560:37:59

So fingers crossed.

0:37:590:38:00

Despite what so far seems to be improvements at Gatwick,

0:38:020:38:05

it's clear that plenty of other places

0:38:050:38:07

don't yet have adequate support for people like Ryan.

0:38:070:38:11

In fact, a report by the National Autistic Society

0:38:110:38:14

and sensory equipment specialists Experia

0:38:140:38:17

found that 30 of the UK's busiest departure points

0:38:170:38:21

fell short in their provision for the estimated 700,000

0:38:210:38:25

autistic people in the UK.

0:38:250:38:27

So when you consider how many more people will be affected

0:38:270:38:31

by conditions that just aren't obvious, such as hearing loss,

0:38:310:38:34

learning difficulties and dementia,

0:38:340:38:36

it's easy to see why better systems

0:38:360:38:38

really could make a huge difference.

0:38:380:38:41

Ian Sheriff is chairman of the Dementia Air Transport Group,

0:38:430:38:47

which was set up by the former Prime Minister David Cameron.

0:38:470:38:51

If you have a hidden disability,

0:38:510:38:53

you're entitled to get the same services

0:38:530:38:57

that a person with a visual disability.

0:38:570:39:00

And it will ease your journey through the airport, but also

0:39:000:39:04

when you get on your carrier, your airline.

0:39:040:39:07

Ian has some very simple tips for anyone with a hidden disability

0:39:090:39:12

to keep in mind.

0:39:120:39:14

My main message to everybody who has a hidden disability is -

0:39:140:39:18

ensure that when you go to your travel agent

0:39:180:39:21

that you tick the box that says, "I have a disability,"

0:39:210:39:24

but also make sure the airline and the airport know that you're coming.

0:39:240:39:29

Make sure you contact the airline and the airport

0:39:290:39:32

at least 48 hours before you travel,

0:39:320:39:35

so that they can actually have support there,

0:39:350:39:39

ready for you.

0:39:390:39:40

Information can be found about this

0:39:400:39:43

on the airline and the airport's website.

0:39:430:39:46

Back at Gatwick,

0:39:480:39:49

Maria and Ryan have made it through the dreaded security area,

0:39:490:39:53

and Maria's smile is a giveaway - this time,

0:39:530:39:56

they had no difficulties whatsoever.

0:39:560:39:59

Going through security, absolutely no problem at all.

0:39:590:40:01

We didn't have to queue, we were taken straight to the front.

0:40:010:40:04

I was searched first - a very quick pat-down and a wanding.

0:40:040:40:07

With Ryan, we played the tickle game with Father Christmas,

0:40:070:40:10

so we tickled Father Christmas, we tickled Mummy,

0:40:100:40:13

and then we tickled Ryan.

0:40:130:40:14

That worked brilliantly. I did hold on to his feet,

0:40:140:40:16

just to make sure there weren't any problems,

0:40:160:40:18

but he was absolutely brilliant.

0:40:180:40:20

The staff were fantastic.

0:40:200:40:22

So, yeah, absolute success with the lanyards, big thumbs up,

0:40:220:40:25

and no stress at all.

0:40:250:40:27

Schemes like this one could revolutionise air travel

0:40:290:40:32

for families like Maria's.

0:40:320:40:34

And as more airports roll out their own improvements,

0:40:340:40:37

she's very excited about what that could mean

0:40:370:40:39

for the millions of people

0:40:390:40:41

thought to have hidden disabilities in the UK.

0:40:410:40:44

I know a lot of families that wouldn't even entertain

0:40:440:40:46

coming to the airport, wouldn't entertain going on holiday,

0:40:460:40:49

purely because it would be too stressful for themselves, and

0:40:490:40:52

obviously for the child or adult that they're caring for.

0:40:520:40:56

Hopefully, now, with this wonderful system in place, we can

0:40:560:40:59

actually say to our families, "You don't need to be frightened any more,

0:40:590:41:02

"you can go on holiday."

0:41:020:41:03

So, yeah, this is massive. This is massive for hidden disabilities...

0:41:030:41:07

..and massive for the families, too. Absolutely brilliant.

0:41:080:41:12

If you have a story you'd like us to investigate,

0:41:200:41:22

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0:41:220:41:25

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0:41:350:41:37

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0:41:400:41:43

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0:41:430:41:46

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0:41:560:42:00

Well, we're almost out of time for today,

0:42:120:42:14

but let's hope we've been able to give you some useful information

0:42:140:42:18

to help make the whole airport experience less stressful.

0:42:180:42:20

It's certainly opened my eyes to see what goes on behind the scenes.

0:42:200:42:24

And I have to say that I was particularly pleased to see

0:42:240:42:27

that initiative at Gatwick Airport in action,

0:42:270:42:30

because supporting passengers who might particularly need

0:42:300:42:33

a bit of help in getting through the airport

0:42:330:42:35

and then onto the plane is really very important.

0:42:350:42:37

So I'm sure that it really will make a huge difference

0:42:370:42:40

to a lot of people.

0:42:400:42:42

So it'll be great to see something similar being rolled out at other

0:42:420:42:46

-airports as well.

-Anything that reduces the stress at the start

0:42:460:42:49

or the end of a holiday can only be a good thing,

0:42:490:42:52

which is why I was very glad of the reminder of how to avoid having

0:42:520:42:56

your toiletries confiscated at security.

0:42:560:42:58

Can't be too many of us who haven't fallen foul of that one.

0:42:580:43:01

Yeah, but I've always wondered exactly

0:43:010:43:03

-how dangerous my lipstick is, but who knows?

-Yours might be, actually.

0:43:030:43:06

But that's where we have to leave it for this time.

0:43:060:43:08

Thank you so much for your company, and we'll see you again very,

0:43:080:43:12

-very soon. So until then, from all of us, bye-bye. BOTH:

-Goodbye.

0:43:120:43:14

As consumer champions Angela Rippon, Gloria Hunniford and Julia Somerville investigate problems viewers have had at airports, a surprising, and costly, problem you might face with your passport is revealed.

Plus, a look behind the scenes at airport security to unravel confusion over what you can and can't take on board.

Travel expert Simon Calder reveals holiday destinations that should appeal to all generations, and a mum tests whether a new initiative to help travellers with hidden disabilities will make travelling with her autistic son any easier.