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Insane security at Turkey’s IST Istanbul International Airport

Just got back from a very enjoyable trip to Turkey.   On our return flight, the level of security at the airport was off the chart.   This is what steps we had to go through.

  1. Bag X-ray and metal detector at front door of  airport.  Yeah, before you even get to check-in, so you have to have your luggage you are checking in X-rayed at this point.  This was also the case when we flew domestic inside Turkey from Izmir to Istanbul.
  2. While waiting in line at the check-in counter, someone asked us the standard “did you pack it yourself?” questions as well as a few others like wanting me to list all the electronic equipment I had packed.  My passport was also checked. I was also asked for my ticket or printout of my e-ticket.
  3. At the front of the line another person took my passport  to a scanner machine, then placed a sticker on the back of it.
  4. At check-in counter, passport again checked and boarding pass issued.
  5. Went through another line called “Passport Control” where passport was again checked along with boarding pass. An exit stamp was placed over my visa stamp. After this we appeared to be “airside” with no other x-ray machine in sight.
  6. At departure gate, we went through several layers of security again. Yes, at the gate…. First was another passport and boarding pass check with some more questions and a new sticker placed on back of my passport.
  7. Then had to go through an x-ray machine for carry-ons and metal detector for passengers.  I was also wanded.  My carry-on bag was searched thoroughly but my wife’s was not.  They found a can of soda I purchased inside the airport. I had to toss it.
  8. After x-ray machine, went to another table where ALL carry-ons were checked. This time they went through every pocket, made me empty most of the contents onto the table for further checking.
  9. I then got a pretty intensive pat-down search.  All passengers got the same treatment. After this we had to go board the plane.
  10. At entrance to jetway my boarding pass and passport were again checked
  11. Half-way down jetway was another person checking boarding pass and passport.

Some additional comments:

  • On an internal domestic flight we took earlier we had to go through X-ray twice. Once at the entrance to the airport, and again to go airside.  Since the check-in counters are vulnerable in the U.S. I wouldn’t be surprised to see that used in U.S. eventually as well.    However, didn’t need to produce a ticket or boarding pass so anyone can enter airport at this point.
  • I also went through metal detectors at shopping malls, universities, and office buildings as well while in Turkey.
  • I think moving the x-ray, metal detector, and pat-down to the gate is far more secure method of operation. It removes a large window of opportunity when wandering around airside to obtain a weapon after clearing security.  But to do this, gates have to be reconfigured and made much larger. Space for all that equipment and operation is needed. Also there were at least 12 people i counted processing the boarding passengers.  1 at initial check, 3 at metal-detector/x-ray, 4 doing bag searches, 2 doing pat downs, and two on the jetway.   That’s a lot of labor for each flight.