Airport security in India

June 27th 2013, 2:19:00 pm

I'm jumping out of order for a bit for a quick story about the joys of security theater in Indian airports.

I get dropped off at the airport by a taxi and head towards the door in which I can see signs pointing to departures and arrivals. I go to enter and the security guy on the door, holding what I think was an MP-5 machine gun, wants to see ticket and passport. Having only booked my ticket online hours earlier and having no printer I had no ticket to show him. He says I can show him on my phone, I pull up Trip-It and show him the flight details and confirmation number but he's not happy because there's no name listed so he sends me around to the ticket desk to get a ticket printed. After trying the next two entrances in the direction he gestured I realise the desks are basically just invisible slots in the glass front of the building.

The "ticket desk"
The "ticket desk"

There's a guy in there on his phone, but he doesn't look over when I say nameste, nor when I knock on the window. A rather stressed out looking Indian man comes over and tries as well but the guy inside completely ignores both of us. Nice to know it's not just because I'm a foreigner.

Finally, after waiting at the window for ages wondering if maybe I got there too late, another guy shows up in the window. I read out the confirmation number and he asks me to pass my phone in through the slot. I'm not keen on this, but don't have another option, and he gives it back after entering something in his computer. He disappears for 5 minutes, then comes back and asks for my passport. He writes some stuff on a scrap of paper, stamps it and hands it to me.

My "ticket." Good enough for security!
My "ticket." Good enough for security!

I go back to the front door (keeping in mind, everything so far has occurred with me being completely outside the airport) this time armed with my hand written piece of paper; and this time I'm allowed in.

I walk the 20 metres towards the departure check-in part of the airport, and a guy at the entrance stops me and asks to see my ticket and passport yet again. Obviously the guys out the front can't be trusted. He's concerned that the hand written scrap of paper only says Bombay on it and doesn't mention Udaipur. So another guy is called over to confirm that yes, my flight does actually leave from the airport I've shown up at. Phew!

I put my check-in bag on an x-ray machine conveyor belt, and at the other end it is stickered and looped with packing tape.

I finally get to the check-in desk. You know? The place where all of this stuff happens at real airports. There is no line. They take my hand written ticket and print me off a boarding pass. It sure is lucky they had security to check my hand-written unforgeable scrap of paper several times before letting me through here. I'd hate to think what horrible things might have occurred without all that "security".

In order to get to the boarding area, I have to show my boarding pass and passport yet again. Surprisingly they're not interested in checking my hand written ticket here as well. They are, however, concerned that my carry on bag has no paper tag on it, so they stop me while they find one and attach it to my bag.

I put my bag, laptop and contents of my pockets in plastic trays and send them through the x-ray machine, then line up behind 2 other guys at the step through metal detector, which seems to be going off for everyone.

There is a second metal detector, but it's only for women, so I stand in this queue, starting to feel a bit uncomfortable how long my stuff is out of my sight and loose in a tray.

Each person in front of me sets off the metal detector, and then has to stand on a platform for a pat-down and a scan hand held metal detector that's so over-sensitive it goes off for zippers.

I walk through the metal detector and it doesn't go off. Huzzah! I'm still required to take the second metal detector scan and pat-down. Makes me wonder why they even have the step through one, but I already know the answer. Because more is obviously better.

At last I get over to the plastic tray containing my stuff, and find my bag has been taken aside. This means I have to wait for 10 minutes while one of the security people go through the bag of the man in front of me, and tell him to throw out his two containers of milk(?) in soft drink bottles. Meanwhile, 3 security people stand around doing nothing as there's no more bags to x-ray.

Finally it's my turn, I'm told to pull out _all_ electronics from my bag, and lighters. They're very certain I have a lighter and it needs to be scanned separately. I have no such lighter and I tell them several times, with them asking again probably 4-5 times.

My carry-on bag is nearly solely electronics. I empty everything out into a plastic tray, leaving some books and my passport wallet in the bag for them to rescan separately. Now I'm told it's ok to re-pack my bag. They stamp the paper tag and ask for my boarding pass in order to write something down in their report.

At boarding, my ticket is scanned by one person, then a metre later it is checked by another guy who also wants to see my passport, and then again as I enter the plane a third man wants to tear off the stub of the ticket.

Good work India, another terrorist plot of boarding an airplane without having to jump through lots of unnecessary hoops has been foiled! Inconvenience and the illusion of added security continues it's reign.