Airport Insecurity & Bangalore International Airport (BIAL)

I always wonder how 9/11 has changed the world for the average person outside the US. Traveling by plane reminds me of the changes on a fairly frequent basis. Before that tragic day, I would consistently be “a few minutes early” at the airport. Not after. Usually an hour is normal.

I walked into Bangalore International airport (the new one) the other day for my weekend jaunt with 4 other friends. We were traveling to Goa on a Spice Jet (South West equivalent) 130 pm flight. We were at least an hour early and it seemed fairly empty. We all walked up to the entrance with a copy of our eticket (you cannot enter the airport) without a printout of the eticket – (yes, it defeats the purpose of an eticket, I know) and our ID. I had my California Driver License with me.

The amazing thing about carrying identification in India is most everyone carries a “real copy” of the ID. Not the original. So imagine that you have a CA Driver’s license like I do. Now, make a color photocopy of it and laminate it – there’s your ID – and its very widely accepted. Most real id’s are stored in bank lockers for security and no wonder – it takes you days to get a duplicate one if  your original ID is stolen or lost.

I was thinking to myself that we came to the airport fairly easily so we had to expect something to go wrong soon.

Turns out one of my friends had no ID at all. In fact the only thing he had was a 15+ year old copy of his driver’s permit. This was a one page document with a 15+ year old photo of him with lots of hair (he’s lost quite a bit now) and the copy was also 15 years old, folded in 4, torn on the edges and the folds.

Another friend only had 2 Credit cards with his photo on the corner left of the card. This credit card was issued by a local bank and the photo was also over 5 years old.

Another of my friends claimed he left it in his other wallet.

So walking up to the entrance I was expecting quite a stir and thought we might have to catch a later flight, while we waited for them to get their ID’s.

The guard at the entrance was keen to see our paper copy of the ticket. Imagine an armed reserve forces personnel with a serious mustache in official uniform. He looked at this thing for what seemed like a few minutes, and then looked at the 5 of us and nodded. No words, no looks just a nod.

We all stood in line to show our ID, with me going 3rd. He looked at my buddy with the credit card ID, glanced at the name and gave him a go ahead.

The next part was amazing. While we all were ready with our ID, he simply said – “Why are you showing me so many, I dont have time, go ahead. One person’s ID is enough, dont waste my time” – translated from Hindi.

He did not check any of our other ID and just waved us all through. I was obviously amazed, but none of the others were.

Expecting another ID check at the ticket counter, I had it out for the boarding pass. Nope, I did not get a chance to even go to the SpiceJet counter. My buddy went and got the boarding passes for all of us.

Okay, so much for security I thought.

Well this is step 2 of airport security in India. You next go through the security check and baggage screening. Every bag you carry on board gets a tag which gets an official stamp after it clears X ray screening. If the screener forgets to stamp your bag and you try to get on board, you’re outta luck – you have to go back and get it scanned again & stamped.

After this, you get the boarding call, where the boarding pass and your bag get screened to see if you have been “stamped”. Still no other security check for ID.

After you get your boarding pass reviewed, you get on a bus to get to the plane (most planes dont have aero-bridges).

Finally there’s another review of the boarding pass at the foot of the stairs to get on the plane. You’re boarding pass gets a final check here and one in every 4 passengers gets another boarding pass “check”  on the plane by the air hostess greeting you.

No less than 5 checks each time you board. So why do I still feel mighty insecure on the plane?