My terrorist zippo

Once more I fall foul of the German’s obsession with Zippo lighters!

The security people here at Berlin Tegel airport insisted that I empty the cotton wool filling. I asked why. They said “Europe”. I said “No” because Spain, France, Poland and UK to mention just a few, have no problem with my Zippo so it appears to be “Germany” not “Europe”. They of course don’t care.

I said “Keep the thing because when you gut it it’s useless!”. They refused to even throw it in the bin and sent me back to “Talk to your airline”. This is an interesting concept given that my airline (LOT) is not represented in this tin shed portacabin they are using as a terminal. There’s one check-in guy who doesn’t give a toss and that’s it.

I go back and find the meanest looking policeman I can and ask him what I’m supposed to do. He whips out a giant Swiss Army knife and guts the thing.

I take my gutted lighter back through the whole security nonsense again and Mr Gunter Von Jobsworth checks it and gives the now useless metal carcass back to me.

This is starting to really piss me off now and as promised last time, this time I really will be sending a mail to Willie Brandt or whoever is running this place these days.

I fail to understand the rule. If it is liquids they are worried about, the Zippo is well under the size limitation. If it is flames they don’t like then why allow gas lighters? Whatever they are worried about, why does this only happen in Germany?


17 thoughts on “My terrorist zippo

  1. You made me curious!

    a 2007 article here
    says this about US travel:
    For flights in the US, you are no longer allowed to carry any kind of lighter on your person, whether it has fuel or not. You are allowed up to two fueled “Zippo” lighters in your checked baggage if they are inside DOT approved containers, which are air tight and are clearly marked as containing lighters so that airport personnel can easily identify them. Matches carry much the same rules as lighters, you cannot have any matches with you during flight and matches in your checked baggage can’t be the ‘strike anywhere’ variety

    The 2010 Zippo page says yes says under prohibited items:
    “Cigarette lighters – only one per person. Zippo lighters can travel without the innards. Any lighter shaped like a firearm will not be allowed.”

    Heathrow, Gatwick say diddly squat (or i’m blind)- not on their list at all, neither under Authorised nor Restricted/ Prohibited unless you count it under liquids

    If your flying to Germany from Stansted its Security states a single lighter may be on your person but not in hand luggage (go figure?) whilst the best cryptic is from Luton which, whilst it bans ‘flammable liquid fuel…”, says under Permissable hand luguage items: “Smoking materials – but not lighter refills containing gas or liquid fuel, or lighter fuel not absorbed;”
    So a Zippo would seem to fit the bill?

    LOT baggage page is no help re lighters as such.

    At Berlin I found in travel agents section this Tegel Airport ‘Advice for Baggage inspection download’ which says in the last sentence “Please assure before flight that your baggage and hand baggage does not contain cigarette lighters.”

    Maybe it’s just that each airport decides for itself if it wants ‘additional measures’ and to which carriers these apply?

  2. If you think this is ridiculous, try “dressing” up as an Asian, and go to Germany (or for that matter any other European country).

    The immigration officers will ask you why you are here in Europe, even after you’ve told them for the 10000th time.

    Sometimes I think they just enjoy making fun of you knowing that you can’t really do anything about it anyway.

  3. Just as a last thought, a zippo’s contents are volatile, being naphtha based (burn at a hotter temperature than Swan fluid for example) and could open accidentally inside luggage to release it’s contents.
    On your person less risk of this happening perhaps?

    Also a zippo is capable of being left alight whereas safety lighters generally require you to press the release to keep the lighter lit. Still….

  4. Good research, Ad!

    I suppose my main dilemma is this – these rules apply as a security measure against terrorist attacks. As I understand it, this is a general alert and not about a specific zippo attack on Germany. As such, there should be some consistency between the countries of the EU as regards what is allowed on a plane and what is not. Travel by plane generally means passing through various countries and that is why there should be consistency. I don’t think it is unreasonable to be surprised when you have just passed through France without question to then have your lighter destroyed in Germany, especially when the only explanation is “Europe”.

  5. i had the same problem one week ago at Frankfurt International Airport. They wanted to confiscate the lighter but after a long fight, they only took the cotton wool. Just minutes ago i repaired my zippo using regular wool that you can buy in a farmacy or in a cosmetics store. I travelled 3 more times to Frankfurt and didn t had a problem.

  6. All you need to do to “fix” your zippo is grab some cotton wool, as stated, and possibly a new wick, fill it up with some fluid and bang you’re flamin’. It wont ruin the lighter, sometimes they are sold empty. If you have your shell and casing everything is cool, $2 and you’re back.

  7. it is not only Germany. It is Austria too. It happened to me 3 days ago. I thought I was going to lose it with that guy.. they took the cotton and now I am looking for substitutes. When they saw my zippo, they went crazy “It’s a zippo!! and It’s working!!!” like they saw bin Laden… I comment no more. It is pointless.

  8. Gah, I’m flying to Cologne with a friend tomorrow night. I don’t have a zippo but I doubt they’ll take away my disposable lighter. Right? RIGHT?
    I’ll also take matches just in case.

  9. Yep- just got Zippo gutted at Cologne-the lighter has never been a problem for Spain-Malta-France-South Africa.Why Germany????

  10. Same here, just came back from Berlin last weekend and got my Zippo emptied in the airport.
    I tried to discuss with the guy, and that’s when they decided to check all my suitcase for diamonds (wtf?!)…
    I flew over 20 times with my zippo and it’s the first time this happened…

  11. Yeah, they don’t like discussing it, probably because they think the rule is as stupid as we do but they have no choice but to enforce it.

  12. Just to add my 2 cents, since I am going to travel again and got enraged after reading this entry.
    I have traveled several times with my zippo in my carry-on baggage and also only in Germany (switch to Koln>Lisbon, after unproblematic trip Vienna>Koln) I was asked to empty my zippo. It was a pure luck(?) that the security lady spotted it because I stupiditly put it outside of my bag. I was quite sure there would be no problem if she didnt see it. And it turned out to be true. The security lady was so vague and unpleasant to explain to me where I should actually go to get my zippo emptied, that I simply went outside the security line, stood there confused with all my stuff (and belt out of my trousers xD) in my hands that I though: I dont even know where to empty it, screw it. I put the zippo inside my jacket pocket (taken off, the pocket also contained an mp3 player) and picked another security check line. Absolutely 0 problems after scanning. The ‘terrorist zippo’ was saved (but ofc I was a bit scared).
    My thoughts are, if you are simply not poking the ligher into security guys eyes, the scanners wont really detect it, and throwing some small electronic devices with it can probably mask it a bit.
    This is not a solution, but if you are going to go with your zippo, I suggest you forget to put it out on sight during a security check ;)

  13. Thanks dev, good tip but I’ve already given up and gone back to cheap plastic throw away lighters which no security guard has a problem with. It must be something to do with the fact that you could fill a zippo with any liquid that makes it deserve “special treatment”

    I’m now more confused about toiletries. I thought less than 100ml was fine but even tiny tubes of toothpaste are asked to go in the plastic bags. Why?

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