XKCD v airport security

In today's XKCD strip, "Bag Check," Randall explores the limits of reason in dealing with airport security.

Bag Check


  1. That won’t work – everyone knows that water is much more dangerous than lithium-ion cells.

    But seriously, business travelers are the bread and butter of the airlines. Cutting them off just because they carry explosive devices on board would be bad for the airlines’ bottom lines. Water, on the other hand, doesn’t cut into profits.

  2. A-ha!
    Now the airlines seemingly-retarded security polocies all make sense!

    The Lithium won’t be nearly as dangerous without the water.

  3. Things I’ve taken on a plane:
    Full desktop computer (not even glanced at, despite being cracked open and wrapped in duct tape)
    Half of a Battlebot in late 2001 and early 2002
    Bags full of sharp tools
    Boxes of random electronics
    Loaf of pumpkin bread wrapped in foil next to said box of electronics (I thought it looked like a brick of explosives at list)

    Things security has stopped me for:
    Full size toothpaste tube
    8oz Shampoo bottle
    Nail clippers

    Airport security don’t think about what they’re doing. They’re not looking for weird things that may be bombs, they’re looking for tiny “sharp” objects and slightly too large bottles of liquid.

  4. Things I’ve taken on a plane: Mostly accidently
    12 live .45 rounds
    several boxcutters
    butane lighter + a refill bottle of butane

    Things security has stopped me for:
    2 Grandmas brand peanut butter cookies
    1 nail file
    1 disposable lighter
    1 nail clipper

    I also had a inert detonator for a us military smoke grenade in my pocket once which I appologized for and turned in but which not a single TSA agent reconized or saw as a problem.

  5. Things I’ve taken on a plane:
    *Automatic knife with an 8inch blade (was already in line when I remembered I had it, then thought it would be fun to see if I could make it through)
    *Knitting needles
    *Small scissors, they took the big scissors away but the small ones where okay since it was obvious I was using them for knitting *facepalm*
    *Electronics projects with stacks of unmarked homemade LiPo battery packs
    *a mix of prescription Pills in unmarked bottles

    Things I have had taken away from me:
    Cans of soda
    an empty zippo lighter (still in packaging)

    remember, these restrictions are in place because 8 years ago 12 people got box cutters on a few planes. eight years latter, things are no different.

    1. “remember, these restrictions are in place because 8 years ago 12 people got box cutters on a few planes”

      Sadder still that even otherwise cluefull folks can’t seem to shake off the myth of the boxcutters after all this time.

  6. That pictures is hilarious!

    If you like that sense of humor, you might enjoy http://www.jundooz.com too. Same cynism, same simplistic graphism (with bit more colors) and funny text.

    Thanks for making me discover XKCD!

  7. Coming back from Israel, my spare laptop battery caused a problem at security. It had to be sent separately in its own giant box on the next flight out. They also had an issue with my laptop mouse (Logitech VX Nano), but they screeners were able to convince their supervisor to just put that in my check baggage.

    Of course, the laptop battery that was IN my laptop wasn’t a problem, just the spare.

    As an aside – sign in seems busted with the new layout. I had a choice – post anonymously in Opera (error with the sign in script), or deal with IE displaying the page wrong but allowing me to sign in to post.

  8. I went to the Emmys this year. Knowing I get hypoglycemic I bought a big box of power bars (the original chewy kind), took about 8 of them and plastic wrapped them together in a big bundle. The idea was (and I’m brilliant here) that I would unwrap a few in the hotel before I went to the legendarily long event and replace the loud foil wrapping with sections of the plastic wrap (so that Jamie and Adam from Mythbusters 4 seats away wouldn’t be disturbed by my low blood sugar.)

    I landed, got to my hotel and found a TSA bag exam leaflet inside my checked bag and my precious power bars had been sliced open by a box knife (slicing into one of the bars – eww) and re taped together using liberal amounts of white and blue TSA shipping tape. They ruined my idea of individually wrapping them by slicing all the way through the plastic wrap too. Buncha bastards.

  9. I fly every week, from North Carolina to Illinois and back again. In NC, my shoes can go in a bin with other items but in IL, they must ride on the belt nekkid. Every week in O’Hare they yell out the instructions that by rule of the TSA, you must put your shoes on the belt and not in a bin. If you do otherwise, no big deal, they will just send them through again the “correct way” but of course this non-sense slows down the queue for others. I tried it the other way in NC and they were adamant that I didn’t have to put my shoes on the belt, that they could go in the bin. Small issues, I know, but it illustrates the arbitrary nature of their “authority”

  10. While we’re at it, has anyone ever heard an announcement in an airport saying that we’re on a color alert other than orange? Ever? It’s been orange now for eight years. I’m beginning to suspect that that measure is a little bit meaningless, guys.

  11. I’ve brought on a pocket knife that security has actually handled, but they didn’t recognize it as a knife.

    Anyway, their incentive is not to catch potentially dangerous objects. They only have to catch specific ‘test’ objects that are occasionally sent through by management.

  12. Things I have taken on a plane:
    Elephants, Rhinoceros
    Jesus W. Christ
    fully inflated Zeppelins
    California Redwoods
    the Beatles

    Things I have gotten stopped for:
    oxygen (in lungs)
    hope, dreams
    dust mites
    boing boing

  13. Things I’ve taken on a plane:
    An angry crocodile
    The dorsal fin from a beluga whale
    A flux capacitor
    2lb of pastrami
    A lawnmower
    The Earl of Buccleuch

    Things I’ve had taken away from me:
    A swordfish sandwich
    DVD of The Saw
    An array of hedgehogs
    Errol Douglas

  14. @okkent, that’s strange, because I’ve flown out of O’Hare maybe half a dozen times since 9/11, including last month, and I always put my shoes in the bin. And they don’t take them out. This is at the United terminal; maybe they have different rules at another terminal.

  15. Things I have taken on a plane:

    Stainless steel Ruger Mini-14

    1000 rounds of re-loaded 5.56mm
    200 rounds of premium 5.56mm
    200 rounds of .38 special

    I think I can safely say I have taken enough explosives aboard a plane to blow up said plane.

    /I’m not joking – around 1987

  16. Confiscated at O’hare: A $5 vise grip.

    I was accompanying my underage son to the gate (not actually getting on to a plane, myself), and had forgotten to clear out all the stuff from the bottom of my messenger bag. As the bag went thru the x-ray machine, I hear a panicked TSA guy say, “He’s got TOOLS!”, and I was pulled aside. The TSA goons rummage through my bag and produce the offending item; “we’re gonna have to confiscate this thing!”, one of them says.

    I protest that I’m not even ticketed to get on a plane, and that even though it was only $5, I kinda get attached to my things, and could they please let me keep it?

    A Manager is summoned, and the TSA guys go off to the side and confer. After a few minutes of head scratching one of the TSAs approaches me and says, “I’m sorry sir, but regulations say that no tools over 7 inches are allowed, and your tool is 7-1/4 inches long. We’re gonna have to confiscate it.”

    “I’ve always wished for a 7-1/4” tool, I say.

    TSA guy looks puzzled; “I don’t understand, sir. We’re going to have to confiscate it.”

    “Fine”, I say, “just take it.”

    Transported without incident through Heathrow and Ben-Gurion (pre-2001):

    x-acto knife.
    8″ chef knife.
    rotor, stator and clutch cover for a 1952 Triumph Tiger T100.

  17. The last time I flew, I managed to get an entire human skeleton on board the plane. i even got through customs with it! And this was just after 9/11! How brazen is that?

  18. Nashville Airport is pretty tight for security because of all the Kurds in the region (8,000+ who escaped Saddam’s horrors after Gulf War 1).

    I got busted by the TSA at Nashville for having a metal Cross brand pen on my shirt collar where I had forgotten it. On my return out of Tampa I deliberately did the same thing and went through security without a problem as apparently Tampa had their settings lower.

    Re: MichaelRN: ‘”I’ve always wished for a 7-1/4″ tool, I say.’

    Classic comment!

    All the security is theater. I wish more politicians and business people had to go through it versus flying private jet. And this security doesn’t account for people smuggling in explosives via body orifices and then aggregating the explosives on board. I think this was a method that a group of Chechian women used to down an Russian(?) airliner several years ago…

    1. Are the folks who work Airport Security at national airports TSA Employees? The discrepancies in the training individuals at different locations shows is appalling. McDonalds in at least 20 of the 48 contiguous states can get minimum wage employees in at least as varied conditions act in a consistent manner, courteous and friendly. I realize the TSA provides a severely differnt “service” than food, but contracting companies can be provided the same instructions and requirements, much less all employees of a Federal Security Agency. If the FBI, or the Federal Marshals were as inconsistent and unprofessional as the Airport Security folks I’ve been forced to deal with in the past…

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