Regulatory intervention at Heathrow

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.

“Excuse me Sir, can I ask you where you’ve just come from?”

Dismissing as unwise a curt reply to the effect of “No, you can’t sorry, I’m in a hurry,” I smiled nervously at the Customs officer at Heathrow Airport and wondered what it was that had attracted his attention on this day after I had wandered unaccosted through the green channel on 99.9% of my countless journeys over two decades of travel retail reporting?

“Yes, Singapore via Dubai.”

What is it about these guys that make you feel as if you’re playing out the lead role in Midnight Express? Your hands turn clammy, the heart rate quickens and you make such innane small chat that any half intelligent Customs Officer will have you earmarked as carrying a case of whisky, 1,000 cigarettes and probably a decent old stash of illicit substances.

Except I wasn’t. I think… but then again, what about that Fortnum & Mason’s type delegate pack of freebies from the MEDFA conference? After all, there were enough fragrances in it to open a new branch of Sephora, and enough liquor to rival the Arrivals offer here at Heathrow. But (in the belief that it was simply excessive) I’d left most of it in Dubai with the hotel maid and porters to share. Phew.

And I was hand carrying all my Changi and Dubai purchases, all within my allowance.

“Do you have anything to declare Sir?”

“No, nothing at all…”

“Mind if I open your suitcase for a moment?”

“Not at all,” I lied, with a smile as weak as the London sun in early December. After nearly two weeks on the road, it was probably time to stand back…

“How come you are reading this?”

Eh? That’s no way to talk about The Moodie Report… ah, you mean, wait for it… ‘Heathrow and Gatwick Airports CAA Price Control Proposals’ by the Civil Aviation Authority. Talk about excellent product placement – right at the top of my case, just above the socks.


“I’ve been studying it,” I said. For the first time I thought I spotted sympathy in his eyes. He clearly thought I was very sad. He was probably right.

“Ah… what do you do for a job then?” he asked, though what we wanted to say was “You should get out more…”

“I’m a Publisher – airports, duty free, that sort of thing, I was reading it as background for an article on the sale of World Duty Free…”

“Ah, so I guess you know your allowances then?”

“I hope so. It would make for a pretty bad story if I don’t.”

“Indeed. Thank you very much Sir, sorry to have troubled you.”

Amazing really how possession of a 256 page tome on regulatory controls can speed one’s travel passage. Who said bureaucracy is a bad thing?

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