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Gatwick officers wanted to take my US duty free

Q After a recent and very successful trip to Orlando and all of the parks with my family, we encountered a "grey area" as regards the security in travelling overseas nowadays, and in particular a financial loss as well.

We flew Dublin-Gatwick-Orlando return. Our BA flight from Orlando was delayed by 70-odd minutes because of a severe thunderstorm over the airport, which I knew that it would mean that we would then miss our Aer Lingus flight from Gatwick to Dublin.

My wife spent some time in duty free in Orlando and the goods were brought to our departure gate and handed to us in a clear plastic bag with all of the necessary airline codes etc on a ticket attached to the bag as we boarded.

Upon arrival we eventually got to the Aer Lingus check- in desk (having stood in a long line for immigration and to change terminals) only to miss check-in by three minutes. BA then sorted us out by putting us on their next flight to Dublin. We were told to head through security and to go to our departure gate. Upon arrival at security the security man held up our duty free bag of perfumes, body lotions etc, and told us that he would have to refuse this bag and that it would have to be dumped.

We explained what had happened, showed that the bag was still sealed with the Orlando duty free/BA tag still on it, he checked with a supervisor who allowed us to go ahead warning us that had we been travelling on an American carrier we would have lost it.

This I think is a bit of a grey area as regards security, and I am the first to appreciate all of the aspects of that.

However, having spent a considerable sum in duty free, and through no fault of yours you find yourself in a situation whereby you lose all, I think that travellers need to be more aware of these grey areas. I hope this is of interest to you, or maybe you already know of this. I have spoken to people about and they knew nothing of it, which prompted me to write.

A You were extremely lucky, and did the right thing by asking to see a supervisor. Even the security staff know this policy is nonsensical, and tens of thousands of people have lost expensive duty free at the major European airports. A firm and respectful plea, without being confrontational or ascribing blame, can help the situation.

The supervisor is the only person with the authority to let the material through. Consumer groups, airports, and the Duty Free lobby is trying to get the rules relaxed but seem to have no chance against the security lobby.

They are supposed to offer you the option of checking this material in, as happens at ports of entry into the United States, but this is not available at security points at the major European hubs.

Q We travelled to New York but did not pre-clear US immigration in Dublin last summer? Why is this?

A All Aer Lingus flights now preclear US immigration in Dublin. Until October three of them, afternoon flights EI125, EI137 and EI139, did not pre-clear in Dublin.

Send any of your travel questions to ecorry@herald.ie