Wheels Walkie Talkie: Secure all the way!
Strong-willed and confident with a fierce passion for travel, our expert, Shama Noorani has never learnt to give up. Read on to know what she has to say about security check at the Mumbai airport in her new blog
I am sure you’re aware by now that I love to travel. Having travelled extensively across western countries like the U.K. I was never made to feel that my power chair was anything but an extension of myself. Westerners are respectful of the fact that you are disabled, and make sure you don’t feel discriminated in any way right from check in to security.
Two Words I’ve Begun To Dread
I would like to share an aspect of travel, which bears heavily on my psyche from the moment my flight is booked to the time I travel out of Mumbai. The dreaded words are ‘SECURITY CHECK’ a la airports in India!
I don’t have anything against security checks per se, and no issues going through beepers, which always pick up the metal in my chair and the rods in my back. A little explaination to the security in charge and off I go for some duty free shopping. I look forward to my trips with the excitement of a child; not a grey cloud in sight!
But all this came to a very rude end on my way out of Mumbai soon after 26/11…
As always I arrived 3 hours before the scheduled flight time, finished checking in, got tags for ‘Fragile’ loading for my power chair, completed immigration and headed for security check. I went into the cubicle for wheelchair passengers and to my utter shock the CISF security personnel refused to stamp my boarding card. She not only glared at me and my power chair as if we came from alien land, but stated that my power chair would not be allowed as it was battery operated and had to be checked at a special machine downstairs.
I was now faced with the choice of going all the way back, wasting the power or taking the risk of allowing the airline to hand load my chair into the hold. All sorts of thoughts and imaginary worries of arriving at my destination sans my chair clouded my mind, making me more anxious.
By this time a senior manager from the airline arrived to my rescue, in fact, the same lady who upgraded me the last time. I told her that I was really unhappy about not being informed of this new rule by the airline, and she was gracious enough to apologise on behalf of the staff, although the ground staff were not to blame.
After a lot of deliberation with her I agreed to have my chair hand-loaded. This meant I had to be transferred on to a rickety airport chair–do they ever have normal ones I wonder? The manager gave instructions for a crate on wheels to be sent up to the security lounge. I waited until it was packed and ready to be wheeled downstairs with my angel in disguise accompanying it right into the hold.
First Class Worrier
Needless to say, peace of mind eluded me throughout the long journey. No film or music could get my mind off the worry that my chair may be left behind in Mumbai. But being a believer in the bright side of life; at least I was sitting in the comfort of a business class seat, sipping on champagne, while I worried about it.
It has been quite a few years since 26/11, and although rules have changed, CISF still man the security counters, helping us travel safely. What I have noticed is that Mumbai is the toughest airport to take one’s power chair through to the aircraft door. This may be an assumption but I have had empathic and polite security personnel ensuring that the right checks are done pleasantly, at other domestic airports.
Things To Keep In Mind Before Your Flight
Every experience is a learning lesson, so here are some pointers for all those who intend flying on domestic or International routes within or from India.
1) Inform the airline that you are a disabled traveller who will require assistance at the airport.
2) Arrive at the airport with more than ample time so there is no last minute stress.
3) Let the ground staff know that the batteries are dry cell and the chair is stationery once the power cable is disconnected.
4) Inform the airline staff that you would like to use your chair right up to the aircraft.
5) Agree to transfer on to an airport chair whilst your power chair goes through security. But insist on over-seeing it being done.
6) Make doubly sure that you have all the security stamps on the tags.
7) And lastly, keep asking the ground staff to let you know when your chair has been loaded. A photograph of proof would be a good idea too.