Euromoney’s airport lockdown

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Euromoney’s business cards open many doors in the financial community. But we never realized the full extent of their powers until they nearly shut down one of the world’s busiest airport terminals.

A member of the magazine’s delegation to Washington for the IMF/World Bank meetings in October had placed his luggage, as is customary, in the security scanner for inspection at London Heathrow’s Terminal 3. And there it sat, in the middle of the belt, being examined for at least five minutes as security staff pored over the X-ray image.

Finally, a senior airport official came over and asked us to explain what, exactly, was in the bag. Our world traveller patiently went through the contents – clothes, shoes, obligatory packet of cigarettes, phones, chargers etc.

But that wasn’t good enough. As more border officials gathered around the screen, the bag remained steadfastly in the scanner. "Why can’t you just take the bag out and check it?" we understandably asked. The deadpan reply from the head of security was not what we were expecting: "Because there’s something in there that looks like it’s about to go off."

The problem, it was revealed, was that a mobile phone in a side pocket was resting on an unidentified square of dense material that could be explosives. The phone was at such an angle to this block that the circular vibrator button within it looked like a detonator. The jumble of charger leads surrounding it wasn’t helping matters.

Twenty minutes in, with the perplexed Euromoney staffer unable to identify the rogue block, and the fast-track queue now about 100 people long, the security officer called the police to prepare for imminent evacuation of the terminal.

At which point our colleague had a Eureka moment. "Could it be a box of business cards?" And so it was. Shutdown was called off.

And we still had time for a glass of champagne in the lounge before takeoff.