Flying in India
In order to enter the airport, you must show proof of identity and flight documentation (such as an itinerary) to uniformed, armed guards stationed outside the entrance of the airport. After reading a bit, this heightened security must be due to some of the recent bombings in Mumbai. Metal detecters are everywhere in the country, including the entrance to shopping malls and other high profile public places. Ironically, none of the places that employ these devices actually CARE about the result. At each location I visited I continually set off the alarms, and none of the attending parties ever batted an eye.
Once inside the airport, your bags are initially X-rayed (although this selection seems to only happen if the X-ray technician near the entrance is bored, as this only happened on one out of three separate flights). After this, it is standard ticketing and baggage checking fare. The only difference here is that it is a necessity to take the baggage tag. I’ll explain why in a bit.
When you approach the initial (heh) security checkpoint you’ll notice that you don’t need to take off your shoes, which has become standard for international flights where the United States is involved. After quickly taking out my laptop and mobile phone to place in a small tray, I added my tray and backpack to the X-ray scanner queue and proceeded to enter the queue for the metal detector. Quite the same, the detector lit up like a Christmas tree and made buzzing noises. I had forgotten to take off my belt. Right after going through the metal detector, you’re made to stand on a short black wooden box, at which point a security guard will wave a metal detecting wand over you. Just one beep after waving around your belt? Fine, he then stamps your passport and gestures for you to proceed to collecting your newly irradiated bags.
This next part is what caused me to almost miss my flight out of Bangalore. Unlike everywhere else I’ve always been you must ensure that the X-ray crew stamps the little luggage tag I told you about earlier. These are checked when you board your flight, and if you don’t have the stamp, your bag won’t be getting on that plane. I was turned away at the gate and needed to go back to security to have my bag run through the X-ray machine once more.
For commuter flights, the time listed on your boarding pass as ‘Boarding Time’ does not mean the time when boarding is allowed and will start. Instead, this should be listed as ‘End of Boarding Time’. After I was turned away with my unstamped carry-on bag, I returned to the gate 10 minutes before ‘Boarding Time’ and was told that the flight boarding was in ‘final call’ stage. Thankfully I still made my flight. The agent at the gate counter will not tear your boarding pass however, they will merely scan it for authenticity and correctness. The tearing of the passport is done by another agent right before entering the plane.
The actual flying part is the same as anywhere else in the world. Take your seat, put your bag under the seat in front of you, wait through 15 minutes of safety rigamrole. After the flight lands, disembark and there will be another agent to greet you. If you have misplaced your boarding pass, you get to fumble around your bag for several moments in order to find i, as the disembarkment agent is there to collect each and every boarding pass stub issued.
Baggage claim is something I haven’t had to deal with since I have never checked any baggage. Caveat Empor.
Overall these rules are only slightly more rigid than I’m used to. However after learning this system I can navigate it with almost the same efficiency as the rest of the world. I hope that since you’ve read this you will be slightly more prepared if you must fly inside India.