Saturday, November 14, 2015

Taking one flight, Being twice foolish and passing through three security checks!

It is called the Swiss army officer’s knife or a swiss knife for short. It was a gift to me from my brother in law. He had brought it from Germany, when he went there for training thirty years back.  I had just then read about the knife in Reader’s Digest and was impressed with its quality and the effort that went into its making. If I remember right, every officer of the Swiss Army got one  knife at the time of his commissioning and it was part of his kit. So, when he asked me what I would like to have from Germany, I had asked him to get me a Swiss knife, if available and affordable. Incidentally the same evening he had seen a large scale working model of the knife in the window of a shop and he had purchased it with out looking at the price. I do not remember the price he paid for it but I know that he had to stretch his resources a bit to buy it. It has been with me ever since and has been a part of my luggage almost on every trip. Now, the red knife made by ‘Victorinox India’ is available on Flipkart in different forms to suit different budgets (Rs 250 to 5000) but it was not heard off then. This background is to explain the sentiment  attached to my Swiss knife. 
I make sure that I pack it in the check - in luggage when I take a flight but had made the mistake of  putting  it in my cabin luggage this time. So when the security officer at the Bengaluru air port called out “Sir, do you have a swiss knife in your bag?” I first said “no” and then a sheepish “yes”. My bag was handed over to me and I was asked to take the knife out.  Obviously, it was not allowed on the flight. I did not know what to do. I was in a fix and I was feeling stupid standing there holding the knife in my hand. Then the officer himself suggested that I put it in a bag that I may not need on the flight, go back to the check in counter and check the bag in. We had arrived at the airport early and we had plenty of time. We had about three hand bags with us.  I hastily selected one, took out some snacks that I had kept in it, put the knife in the bag, took it back to the check in counter and checked it in as an extra piece. I collected another boarding pass, came back, went through the security drill a second time, reached the boarding gate and sat there breathing deep.  I am always apprehensive when I go through the security check at the airports and this experience had shaken me.

I did not see my son and wife near the gate and I wanted to call them and find out where they were. Compulsion of carrying a mobile phone. It wouldn’t really matter to me where they were. They would come to the gate at boarding time. But when a phone is handy we call. It was then that I realised that my phone was not handy but was in the bag that I had checked in. And, it was not securely inside but was in the outside pouch! I had put it in the bag before passing through the security gate.  Immediately after that I also realised that I had kept my cash as well as the house keys in the same pouch just before going through the security check. All of them were now in the outer pouch of the bag which I had checked in and would freely flow out when the bag tumbled around on the luggage belt.  By then my son and wife joined me at the gate and I explained to them the foolish situation that I had put myself in. For once my wife remained calm. “Sit here and relax. If you really deserve to have the things that you have put in that bag, you will certainly get them”. My son said that since we now know that we can go back to the check in counter even after the security check, we may try to go back a second time and retrieve the phone, cash and keys.
I went back to the security area and feeling very foolish, explained my predicament to the officer there. He was very helpful. He said that I should go to the information counter, which is located in the boarding area, call the airline from there and see what they suggest. The information counter was unfortunately manned by an arrogant and adamant fellow who just tried to brush me aside saying it was too late to do anything now as the luggage would have been loaded onto the aircraft. I explained that my flight was due only after another hour and a half and that it had probably yet to land at Bangalore. I insisted that he call the airlines and allow me to talk. He grudgingly called Air Asia while I stood wondering what the response of the airlines would be.  When I got my chance, I apologetically explained the situation to the counter staff and was surprised to hear “No issues sir. You please remain wherever you are. Our staff will come and escort you back to check in counter. We will retrieve your luggage and you may take out your phone and keys. By the way, you have checked in three pieces. Which one would you like us to bring back?”  I described my bag and stood waiting.

A pleasant mannered girl arrived after ten minutes, confirmed that I was the fool who needed help and escorted me to the check in counter again. My bag was waiting on the table there. As I took out the phone, keys, loose cash and a cheque from the outer pouch of the bag they stood watching me possibly wondering how stupid one could get. I returned the almost empty bag containing my valuable knife to the counter staff, collected my third boarding pass, passed through the security check for the third time and returned to the gate beaming. 

It was an unusual experience and I wrote this to express my gratitude and appreciate the staff of Air Asia. Even though it was very foolish of me to do what I had done, they just behaved as if it was routine for people to leave their valuables in the check in luggage, unsecured, and return to the counter to retrieve them. This is also to inform anyone else who may be as stupid as I had been, that the check in, security and boarding gates are not one way (as I had thought) and that it is possible to retrace your way if necessary. You may look foolish but you can do it.


1 comment:

George Paul said...

Nice stories Rghunandan! I also liked your 'art' gallery experience! I share your views on art appreciation. You are like the little boy in the eponymous story ' the emperor's new clothes'!
I have a similar story. I was flying back from Singapore on a budget Airline and my cabin baggage was 1 kilo over weight. I paid the fine and went in. Just as I was boarding an officer took a look at a tag on my bag ( indicating overweight) and took away my bag to be put in the baggage hold. He explained that it was standard protocol. On the flight I realised that my bag was not locked and I had 10 $100 notes in an envelope in the bag. I fretted all through the flight. When I landed I waited anxiously for my luggage. When it came on the carousel I grabbed it and opened it. The envelope was just where I had left it. The money was gone. I went to file a complaint. The security officer told me that all incoming baggage so are X Ray screened and currency notes show up their markings. He convinced me that it would be impossible to recover it. I came away disappointed! You did a good thing going back and removing the money and your mobile!