Long before Al Qaeda even existed, Great Britain had become unfortunately all too familiar with modern terrorism. Besides the IRA’s regular attacks, there was the horrible Lockerbie Pan Am bombing, so it’s not as if the country is naive about the potential dangers. Their airline is giving TSA low marks.

In fact, many years ago, London Heathrow security was far tougher than anything in the U.S. (I had to once leave some Christmas Crackers at the airport, because the small “cracker snap,” that makes them pop was on the list of forbidden items in checked luggage at the time.)

Now, however, British security can be a breeze compared to the U.S. version, although they follow many of the American rules. (Liquids are restricted and except for boots, passengers can keep their shoes on.)

But in a speech to the UK Airport Operators Association, even the chairman of British Airways, Martin Broughton, says he thinks the U.S. is going too far with security.

He said that many U.S. security rules are unnecessary, and that British authorities should not “kowtow to the Americans every time they want something done. America does not do internally a lot of the things they demand that we do. We shouldn’t stand for that. We should say we’ll only do things which we consider to be essential and that you Americans also consider essential.”

As one of many Americans frustrated by TSA, I think he has a point. I understand that safety is critical, but in my personal opinion, there are too many “let’s be real” moments these days.

Wearing high boots, sure, security might want to make sure there’s nothing hidden inside. Wearing flip-flops? Where could you hide anything?

Ditto, a single sealed bottle of wine or champagne? I suppose a very sophisticated operation could bottle something dangerous and make it look like wine, but the same effect could be accomplished with several little three ounce bottles.

And, it’s hardly a consistent system. Some TSA officials want things like nail polish and lip gloss placed in that little plastic bag and counted as part of your “allotment,” others do not.

Plus, as gadget hounds have discovered, there’s no consistent definition of “what is a laptop?” As Broughton noted, “Take the iPad. They still haven’t decided if it is a laptop or it isn’t a laptop. Some [TSA officers] think you should take it out and some think you shouldn’t.”

This isn’t even getting into the whole enhanced pat-down issue.

So what do you think, Consumer Traveler readers? All of us want to fly safely. But do the U.S. rules make you feel safer, or just more annoyed?

(Photo: airtreks)