Thursday, June 11, 2020

Tales of Air Travel

Most of us who have travelled abroad more than once will remember their encounters with the immigration and customs authorities. Some of these experiences are worthy of recollection and some not. In my many travels to different destinations, I remember some of these so vividly is if it was yesterday. I will share these mini-stories in the sequence I remember.

Almost four decades back, I was on a solo trip from Mumbai to New York for a training that was to take place at Long Island in New York. I was thrilled and had a queasy sensation at the Mumbai airport from where the flight was to depart. I was looking at a small crowd that had come to bid farewell to a bride who was apparently travelling alone. While I kept looking in that direction I suddenly felt a thunderous pat on my back and I looked back. I was taken aback to see my senior shipmate who was a Flight Deck Engineer Officer onboard my ship INS Vikrant. After, learning that I am on my way to New York, he took me to the family of the newlywed girl and exchanged some brief introductions. The girl was married about a fortnight ago to a man settled in Boston and was going to join him. The parents were happy that she would have a companion for the long journey. They ensured that we got seats next to each other. After the flight took off, the stewardess took us for newly wedded and I went red in the face as the pampering ensued all the way. The girl was sporting and kept chatting with me all along and told me that she was Miss Pune in the Femina India contest the previous year. After the change of flight at London Heathrow, we continued to JFK International airport in New York. As soon as we reached the customs, the authorities again mistook us for newlyweds and greeted us. They did not ask us to open any bags and wished us a happy honeymoon. Unbelievable, it was.

 Several years later As I walked into the Ben Gurion Airport at Tel Aviv, during my first visit to Israel a young girl came to me and asked a flurry of questions. Till I picked up my baggage, two more girls came one after another and asked me several questions. By the time I came out of the gate having seen some very modern eye scanners, for Identity check and hand readers I realized that it was a very gruelling oral exam I had undergone. I felt a bit rattled

Later, at the Christchurch airport in New Zealand. where I had arrived there were scary banners regarding non-permissible items. All food items were to be thrown in garbage cans. After having got rid of everything, our baggage was sent through scanners and ripped open. Two dogs were ushered in to sniff the contents and after having gone through this exercise more than two hours had gone by. Every passenger went through the drill and later someone told us that due to the fragile ecology of New Zealand their immigration check is one of the toughest.

At the Valetta airport in Malta, the customs wanted to inspect the bags and asked me to open the lock. Somehow the key was not to be found. In desperation, I had to request them to break the lock.

The biggest gaffe occurred at the Changi airport where I collected the luggage of another passenger as it was a Siamese twin of my bag, home almost 40 km away from the airport. Later at night when we broke the lock once again as the lock would not open I realized that the contents did not belong to us. Next morning I took the bag back to the airport and they were kind enough to accept the bag back while I located my missing bag

I have lost two swiss knives, a skipping rope, and some other item s discovered in my handbag that was inadvertently slipped in at the last moment.

I am sure all of you would have your own tales to narrate. Such escapades not only make us realize that no matter how much we travel there will be instances that we never expected would happen in our dreams. If you have an experience to share do narrate,


  1. Luckily till now I haven't had any terrible experience (touch wood) with the immigration and customs... But now I know how prepared we need to be :)

  2. Thanks for reading Ira! I wish you have the most hassle free travels in future too!