“Around 60,000 passengers go through Heathrow’s Terminal 5 every day and my job is to keep them safe”
ELIZABETH HEGARTY, 33, is head of security at heathrow terminal 5, the airport’s busiest terminal. she is single and lives in epping, essex.
My office looks out onto the area where the famous opening scenes of love, actually were filmed. all human life – and emotion – is here. it’s where families come together, couples are returning from their honeymoon. i see the human impact of an airport, as well as the diversity of people travelling through it.
At peak periods, 60,000 passengers pass through terminal 5 each day, and my job is to keep them safe and get them off the ground as quickly as possible. we have regular training to update the airport’s security colleagues on best practice and which actions to take. i lead a team of 1,200, and it is my duty to make sure that my colleagues are on the ball every minute of the day.
It never ceases to amaze me what some people carry in their hand luggage. we get passengers who’ve packed all sorts of foods, animals and “personal” items. reptiles, for instance, which might be fine in some countries, are certainly not ok here! i’ve dealt with professional ballroom dancers carrying their outfits who’ll then give us an impromptu demo at the back of security. another memorable moment was the man with 10 identical watches in his hand luggage. we asked him who they were for. “one for each of my wives back home,” he replied. the stories are fascinating!
The liquid ban is still one of our biggest challenges. many passengers still
don’t understand the rules or simply forget them. someone might have
spent a lot of money on a night cream, for instance, so we will always give them the opportunity to put it in their hold luggage. security has changed tremendously since i first started in 2004. there wasn’t the level of regulation there is now.
Security technology is always evolving – and heathrow continuously invests in the latest to help make every journey better. we’re now using biometric data – a form of facial recognition technology – to check that the same person who checked in with a certain ticket is the same person going through passport control and then boarding the plane. we’re also looking at a scanner that can analyse liquids so that, one day, travellers may be able to carry liquids again.
Although i know all the rules, i still make mistakes when i travel, such as, forgetting to remove a lip gloss. my colleagues think i’m trying to catch them out!
I love the intensity of my role, but i need downtime too. so i enjoy going for walks or visiting country pubs.
HEATHROW’S TERMINAL 5