International flight was an eye-opener
I periodically hear people complain about airport security in the United States.
Sometimes, people complain about waiting in the security checkpoint line before heading to the gate, while others say they feel going through the checkpoint itself is an invasion of their privacy.
I came to a recent realization though: that situation is minimal compared to what people flying into the United States must go through.
We recently had an international flight, and the security coming back was amazing.
Boarding the plane in Costa Rica, we had to clear security, just like in the U.S. Then, as we were about to board the plane, a second set of security agents awaited us, who went over our clothes with a wand, and then searched our carry-on bags.
When I asked why, they said it was part of the U.S. Homeland Security regulations.
Our plane then made a brief stop in Guatemala to pick up more passengers before heading into the U.S. All passengers on board the plane who were staying on through to Los Angeles had to take their belongings and exit the plane, leave the gate and go back through a security checkpoint. Then, before reboarding the plane, we again had our belongings searched, and were patted down. Once we cleared that, we could take our seats again.
I asked a flight attendant what was going on, and he said that any plane headed to the U.S. must be completely emptied of both people and baggage and rescreened as part of U.S. Homeland Security measures.
Finally, we landed in Los Angeles, where a two-hour process began. We first stood in a Disneyland-style queue, at the end of which they checked our passports. Then it was off to find our baggage, before standing in another massive line to turn over our Customs declaration form and answer questions about what we brought back into the States.
Going through Homeland Security in the U.S. can be stressful. No one wants to stand in a long line, no one wants to go through the screening process, and it tends to make travel-weary people grumpy, but it's not something I complain about. I remember all too well why we do this.
But wow – going through the process to come home from another country was an eye-opening experience.