There are two things that really piss travellers off: long lines, and wasting money. At Lima’s Jorge Chavez International Airport, you get both, compliments of what just might be the sneakiest airport scam I’ve ever witnessed. Here’s how it works.
Your international flight will likely depart very late at night, because you know, why make life easy for people? So you show up three hours ahead of departure not only because you have run out of ways to kill time, but because you’ve been warned to do this by savvy travellers like yours truly. The reason for this is that when you show up, there will already be about 100 people in line ahead of you and the queue basically winds out the door. So you bide your time listening to screaming babies, trying to lean on your bag to get comfortable, and basically hating your life because you are already exhausted and you haven’t even seen a plane yet.
READ MORE: What to do in Lima, Peru
Once you get closer to the ticket counter, a group of airport authority workers/teeny-boppers (OK to be fair they’re probably at least 17) will greet you, grab your passport, look at it and…yeah. They don’t actually do anything other than stand there and make you feel kind of awkward. At least, that’s what it seems like at the time…until… (building dramatic tension)…they turn up again at the gate!
Why is this a big deal, you ask? Well, here’s the kicker. Once you’ve finally got your boarding pass in hand, you’ll head through security like you would anywhere else, then get deposited on the other side where you’re greeted with bright duty-free shops, gleaming restaurants and a place to sit/curl-up-in-an-uncomfortable-ball-and-sleep. This is where you’ll learn that your flight is delayed (apparently this happens a lot), so you head over to buy a crazy expensive bottle of water at one of the shops—we’re talking $12 Evian, people.
Anyhoo, when it’s finally time to board, guess who shows up? The teeny-boppers! And this time, they have gloves on. Meaning they’re ready to screen your carry-on luggage for liquids. Yes, the same carry-on luggage that you ALREADY GOT SCREENED when you went through security! Bye bye $12 Evian water bottle, farewell new perfume, so long expensive bottle of whiskey.
Why this is the case, I truly have no idea, but there is definitely no warning passed along to travellers. Even on the airport’s website it states:
“After passing through the security checkpoint, passengers must wait in the assigned boarding area until boarding their plane. Passengers must board through the gate indicated on their boarding passes. Food and duty free shops are available in the boarding area.”
Nowhere does it say anything about not being able to actually purchase duty-free, or the fact that you’ll have the liquids that you just bought taken away for no good reason.
For the sake of journalism I decided to reach out to airport officials to get their take on it, and a letter I got back from the general manager of Lima Airport Partners says in part:
“…each airline is responsible for the security control of its passengers before they board the plane. It is important to highlight that -as operator of Lima airport- we have no participation in such process of the airline.”
To me, that sounds like passing the buck as I’ve never heard of an airline being responsibility for security screening.
Regardless, what do they do with these seized and unopened bottles of liquids? Well…I’ll let you decide that one, but let’s just say I have my theories. In the mean time, save your money and avoid shopping at the Lima airport. And be sure to show up ridiculously early.
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