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I have been travelling for many years, long enough to remember the Queen’s Building at Heathrow (a riot of marble and chandeliers), Vickers Vanguards, Concorde entering service, domestic flights with no ID, being able to travel with a pen-knife, and so on. I also remember numerous terrorist attacks from Dawson’s field onwards and so understand the need for airport security.

We have had magnetic arches for 40 years and most travelers are familiar with the routine of removing watches and other metal objects from their body and sending their bags through an x-ray machine. As a frequent traveller I have spent many hours in security queues, watching the inconsistency with which “rules” are applied (probably a good thing) and the incoherency (an almost empty 125ml glass bottle causes an incident). So, as a geek, I assume that the introduction of new scanning technology must be a good thing. Until reality intrudes.

For the last couple of years Schiphol have been using full body scanners and I regularly have to endure them. In the last year I have been through one of these useless machines 12 times, and 11 times I have been pulled aside for groping by a security guard. Something as simple as a piece of paper gets you pulled aside. When they say “empty your pockets” they really mean it and despite learning to do so I still get pulled aside; therein lies the rub.

Here we have a machine that reportedly costs 150k Euros which – in my case – fails on most occasions. Think about it. Usually I get pulled aside as a potential terrorist, despite creating the most favourable conditions for the machine to work. Here we have a false positive rate of way over 50%. What a piece of shit. In any normal line of business no one would accept such a failure rate but do the security companies complain? No, because they get to deploy more staff and thus profit from the situation.

It is passengers who bear the cost. Longer queues as people either empty everything from their pockets – more so than magnetic arches require – or fail to do so and get re-scanned. Plus the time collect all their belongings at the afterwards. It is a complete fiasco. When I commented that their machines still did not work properly one security agent suggested that I take a boat instead.