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Canadians still taking a flyer at airport security

If you packed a pair of nail clippers or a bottle of water in your carry-on, you’ve undoubtedly been given a talking-to by airport security. But don’t take their stern words to harshly: a report released on Monday from the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority showed that screening officers in Canada’s major airports made some alarming discoveries in 2012. Everything from guns to knives to rabbits’ feet were found in the carry-on luggage of Canada’s 51 million air passengers in 2012.

Fortunately, not too many of these horror stories come from close to home. “For the most part, people pretty much follow the rules here in Waterloo,” said Chris Wood, general manager at Region of Waterloo International Airport in Breslau.

“Very rarely do we have prohibited items that end up with the police being called. Now, it does happen three or four times a year where the police have to come out and determine that items are not only prohibited on an airplane, but illegal to have. Those things, we do call the police and ensure that they do get involved.”

Still, across Canada, plane travellers have found themselves in trouble with transit authorities in some unexpected ways. The CATSA report showed that many prohibited items came in the form of good-luck charms: rabbit feet, horseshoes, and even a “lucky knife” found in the sole of a Whitehorse traveller’s shoe. In Toronto, a World War II aficionado was held up when a grenade replica in his baggage was mistaken for the real thing (neither one is allowed onboard).

If anything, the CATSA’s report offers a sobering reminder of the value of good packing. Don’t, for example, pack your stun gun – as one Toronto-Pearson passenger did (it was mistaken for a pistol, which, for that matter, is also illegal). Also, take the metal detector test seriously. When one unlucky Vancouver passenger’s six-inch hunting knife was discovered by a metal detector, it led to a search that uncovered a retractable steel baton and 30 grams of marijuana.

Wood said that at the region’s airport, those with lucky knives are in luck. “One service that we do have, because we’re a smaller airport: if you have a pocket knife that is too big to get on the airplane but not too big to be illegal, we will store it for you until your return trip for free.”

Don’t expect to see too much criminal activity in Breslau, where the infractions tend to be misdemeanor level.

“We do have, of course, a lot of liquids and gels trying to get through,” said Wood. “That message, even though it’s been a number of years, people don’t understand they can’t take a bottle of water through security. So those things still happen, and it does slow things down somewhat.”

So, any colourful horror stories? “As far as other items, such as guns and ammunition and things, they don’t see those things here. What we have seen more than our fair share of is martial arts items, such as nunchucks, brass knuckles, things like that. Those are not permitted to fly.”

Surely the thought of someone holding up a plane armed only with nunchucks is a little … humourous? “We’re also looking out for other passengers’ safety and the cabin crew as well,” said Wood. “If the cabin crew were to say something and this person pulled out a pair of nunchucks, that wouldn’t be good.”

So, take note, martial arts fans: at Waterloo Region Airport, “Enter the Dragon” is liable to become “Exit to the Parking Lot.”

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