The recent attack on Ataturk Airport in Istanbul left 43 dead and hundreds injured. This shocking event shut the airport down and inspired fear worldwide, all in a day’s work for a terrorist.
Ataturk responded by doubling security and reopening as quickly as possible. Why? It’s the gateway to everywhere.
Ataturk is the third-largest airport in Europe, after Heathrow and Charles de Gaulle. It’s the 11th-busiest in the world, handling 61.8 million passengers annually. That’s nearly 168,000 flyers a day, not including support staff and grannies waving hankies at departing beloveds.
There’s no such thing as a completely safe way to travel. We just have to go with acceptable risks.
Every year, 10,000 people are involved in fatal car accidents. A whopping 19% of these victims are pedestrians.
At 27 fatalities per day, the sidewalk is a lot more dangerous than the airport.
Once off the pavement and inside the building, the most dangerous place in an airport is the ticketing and check-in area, where unscreened people without tickets are allowed to mill about with passengers. Where luggage piles up in security lines. Where people can carry around liquids totalling more than 100 millilitres.
The safest thing a traveller can do is to get through this area and head to security as quickly as possible. Here are 7 things to think about before you fly:
1. Check in online.
Make sure you have an offline copy of your boarding pass on your phone. Or go old-school, and print it out.
2. Look at a map of the airport.
Where do you need to go? Where could you go if there’s a problem?
3. Check your flight status before you leave the house.
If the flight’s delayed, eating Cheetos on the couch at home is safer and cheaper than hanging around the airport.
4. Dress and pack smart.
Slip-on shoes, cloth belt, laptop near the top of your carry-on bag, so you don’t have to dig it out. Toiletries in the appropriate plastic bag on top. You don’t need to check a bag: I promise there are stores wherever you’re headed. Packing light gets you away from baggage claim, which is often unsecured and chaotic, with unattended bags everywhere.
5. If you fly a lot, join a trusted traveller programme.
For not that much, these groups can offer expedited security or the short line at customs. The trade-off? A fee and a background check. But before you shell out the simolians, check that the airports you frequent use the programme.
6. Get supplemental travel medical insurance.
You’ll need it if you travel to a place under government travel advisories. That nifty package that comes with your credit card won’t work if you’re in a terrorist attack in a country under advisory.
7. Once you’re in, get away from the screening area ASAP.
If something awful happens, that space turns into a cattle chute. Don’t worry, you won’t miss anything, the shop right next to your gate sells the same overpriced perfume and tacky gewgaws.
Now relax. The terror isn’t over, but it’s familiar: screaming babies, sneezing adults and armrest-hoggers. Bon voyage!