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Excuse me sir, are you carrying an umbrella in your bag?

April 15, 2014 Airport, Headline News 2 Comments Email Email

egtmedia59I was challenged over an umbrella last week just before boarding my flight from Brisbane to Sydney. I was about to put my carry-on bag on the belt for the security X-ray scan. I’d already taken my laptop out and put it in a separate tray.

An officer handling security screening stepped up. “Do you have any knives or sharp objects in your bag?”


“Do you have any liquids?


“Any aerosol cans?”


“Do you have an umbrella?”

This one got me. As it happens, I was carrying a small folding umbrella in my backpack. Useful when it rains. In my travels through airports in various parts of the world I have never been asked about umbrellas. folding-umbrella

I confessed immediately.

“Could you take it out and show me, please.”

It took a lot of rummaging but I found the umbrella. The security officer asked me to open it. She examined it carefully. Satisfied, she said I could put it away again. The bag was then put through the scanning machine.

As my Tigerair flight whisked me smoothly from Brisbane to Sydney (with my umbrella securely in my backpack), I wondered what someone could hide in an umbrella that wouldn’t show up on an X-ray scan, in the way nail-scissors or Swiss Army knives do. Perhaps the airport had received a specific alert about umbrellas. You never know.

Back home, I perused Australia’s official list of prohibited items in carry-on baggage.

That list includes some daunting and intimidating items: ice axes, pitons, hooks, hammers, bolts, hypodermic needles, baseball bats, lighters in the shape of guns, grenades or other weapons.

Carrying a meat cleaver is banned. Axes are banned, along with hatchets, straight razors, scalpels, darts, drills, bodkins, crowbars, hammers, knives, wrenches, cable ties, billiard cues, handcuffs and petrol.

No mention of umbrellas. However “sharp things that are not weapons, but are capable (with or without modification) of causing harm by penetration” are prohibited, as are “blunt objects that can be used to bludgeon or threaten to bludgeon someone”. Do umbrellas fit that description?

I was once questioned (at Sydney airport) over a torch I was carrying. Possibly it was seen as a potential bludgeon. On that occasion the supervisor came over, had mercy and waved me through.

The American list of prohibited items makes wondrous reading. Apart from the usual items, sabres and spear-guns are specifically banned. Firearms are banned in carry-on baggage and when carried as checked baggage “MUST be unloaded, packed in a locked hard-sided container, and declared to the airline at check-in”. The US list of prohibited  carry-on items includes electric cattle prods, billy clubs, blackjacks, “Kubatons” (what is a kubaton?), self-defence sprays containing more than 2% by mass of tear gas, nunchucks, stun guns and blasting caps.

Gas torches are specifically banned on the US list. So is dynamite. But not umbrellas.

Written by : Peter Needham

Currently there are "2 comments" on this Article:

  1. gnits says:

    …oh peter….you could have just asked the security officer right then and there… like, pardon my naivety officer and I’m just curious, can I ask you how an umbrella can possibly harm someone? I know I could hit someone with it but so with my laptop…

  2. Peter Needham says:

    That’s a valid point, gnits. I suppose I have got used to politely complying with any request made by airport security personnel, to avoid “making waves” and maybe slowing the process down or getting myself searched. Although as it was an Australian airport I could probably have just asked, as you say. Also, I forgot to mention that I saw a couple of other people on the adjacent scanner being asked about umbrellas, so it wasn’t just me. But by that time I had passed through the process and I just wanted to board the plane. Perhaps umbrellas are an optional extra in security terms, like footwear – sometimes airport security ask you to remove your boots, but usually not.

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