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Monday, April 28, 2014

Travel to a wrong destination ~ the height of security....

A boarding pass is a document provided by Airlines during check-in, giving a passenger permission to board the airplane for a particular flight. As a minimum, it identifies the passenger, the flight number, and the date and scheduled time for departure. In some cases, flyers can check in online and print the boarding passes themselves.   (some offices insist on production of  boarding passes when employees seek reimbursement !!!)

In Tamil cinema ABCD, Vadivelu plays forgetful bus conductor ~ who would enter into a bus ordering passengers to get down as it was going to Tambaram …. Only to be told that, he had only got into a wrong bus and not the passengers …. Passenger getting into a wrong bus happens ~ especially at intermediary stops in nights – imagine travelling back to Chennai – and bus stopping somewhere near Ulundurpet / Tindivanam in a wayside hotel ….. once you get down – you could be stumped as ‘all buses’ standing there will have a board ‘Chennai’ …… and you could be wildly searching for your bus !........... in another comedy, a man would board a bus bound for Trichy and would sleep down ….. at Tambaram, bus stop and conductor would shout ‘trichy, trichy….’ Seeking more travellers .. this man would get out of slumber, collect luggage in hurry and try to get down thinking that destination has been reached…

When one travels by train ….. things are different … at bigger stations like Central, one could have problem in locating the train bound for their destination, as there are many platforms and in a rush, one could board wrong train…. One tends to double-check with the list before getting in and gets comfort only when the TTE checks the ticket and validates…….. again, if your destination is scheduled to be reached in odd hours – it could spell trouble – in night, there is poor visibility and at say 03.30 am or 04.00 am – one may not know easily where exactly they are – which station is nearby – whether train is running on time and when the destined place would be reached ……

To travel by air is the best – it saves time, you have people guiding – multiple checks (security and otherwise) – announcements – and you are guided at every step !  … all good (read this report in TOI …  flying to a wrong destination - Times of India )

In a bizarre sequence of events that amounts to a serious breach of security, a 37-year-old man who did not have an airline boarding pass managed to clear three security checkpoints and fly from Mumbai to Rajkot on a Jet Airways flight last Friday. The man was supposed to take a flight to Nagpur, but boarded the one to Rajkot, that too after leaving behind his boarding pass at the airport. After he reached Rajkot he realized he had flown to the wrong destination and informed Jet officials. The airline remained clueless till then.

The incident brings into question the security arrangements at Mumbai airport made by both by the airline and CISF.

"Jet officials flew him back to Mumbai and put him on another flight to Nagpur. It is a serious breach of security — the kind that one thinks could never happen," said a source. This man had no business being on the Rajkot flight, but none of the security checks in place zeroed in on him," he added. "We are looking into the matter," said a CISF official. At the time of going to press, Jet was yet to respond.

The incident occurred on April 25 after Liju Verghese landed in Mumbai airport from an international flight. He was booked for an onward journey to Nagpur and was supposed to board the 4.11pm Jet Airways flight 9W 2165. Verghese, who was reportedly in an inebriated state, cleared the CISF security check at domestic terminal 1B of the Mumbai airport. With the security-stamped boarding pass and a handbag, he then proceeded to the security hold area to wait for the boarding announcement. Meanwhile, a boarding call was made for the JetKonnect Mumbai-Rajkot flight 9W 4079 scheduled for a 3.25pm departure from gate number A2 of domestic terminal 1C. The passengers were to board the Rajkot flight using an aerobridge.

That is when things spiralled into a different direction. "The man left behind his handbag, which also contained his boarding pass and for some reason proceeded to board the flight to Rajkot," said a source. First, he managed to walk past Jet's customer service staff entrusted with what's called "passenger reconciliation". It is a mandatory security procedure done to ascertain whether the number of passengers who check in for a given flight is equal to the number of passengers who have boarded the aircraft. The airline staffers manually check the seat numbers on each boarding pass and tally it with the data they gather from their check-in desks.

"That he crossed this security check is surprising. For, this was a passenger who was not supposed to be on that flight and those at this security checkpoint are supposed to spot such cases," said a source. Next, Verghese managed to get past the CISF security personnel who check whether the boarding pass and the tags on the hand baggage of passengers have the CISF's security-cleared stamp. Then, prior to entering the aircraft, Jet's security personnel man the doors to verify whether all passengers are carrying the boarding passes for the right destination, whether their boarding passes and baggage tags carry the CISF security stamp.

Verghese crossed that barrier as well. On entering the aircraft, Verghese randomly chose a seat and sat down only to be questioned by a passenger who claimed that seat. "He got up and gave the seat to the said passenger. The flight attendant present in the vicinity did not bother to enquire about Verghese's boarding pass to find out his seat number. He was told to occupy any vacant seat available," said the source.

Lastly, a headcount of passengers is supposed to be taken to tally it with the number of passengers entered in what's called a Load and Trim sheet. It is essentially a register of weights and their location inside an aircraft. It carries details like the total number of people onboard, total baggage weight, weight of fuel uploaded, etc. "While a final headcount is judiciously taken on international flights, on many domestic flights the practice is not diligently followed," said an official. Had a headcount been taken, they would have figured out that flight had one unaccounted passenger on board — a very serious situation from the security point of view.

It was after the flight landed and the passenger disembarked and found himself in Rajkot instead of Nagpur that the airline realized what had happened. Meanwhile, the Mumbai-Nagpur flight that he was supposed to board departed but not before finding out that one passenger who had checked in had not reported for boarding. His check-in bags were removed from the aircraft and left at Mumbai airport for a security check. That was the only thing that went as per the laid-down security norms.

Travel by Indian Railways is entertaining … the SMS facility in train is a wonderful facility….. it provides onestop answer to all the enquiries like Train Alert, PNR Status, Train Status, Seat Availability, Train Schedule, Train Information, Train Time Table, Train Fare etc offered on the web site www.indianrail.gov.in  ~ all these are available on your mobile phone through SMS facility.

Advantage 1 … one need not carry ticket at all – just use the SMS;

2 : get the schedule of the Train which will give you a fair idea of distances and when the destination would be reached for example – the SMS gave me the schedule of Train No - 16184-UZHAVAN EXPRESS (from Thanjavur to Chennai Egmore)

Schedule :TJ Dep-20:45-PML 21:04-KMU 21:23-ADT 21:34-KTM 21:44-MV 22:28-VDL 22:46-SY 22:51-CDM 23:08-CUPJ 23:41-PRT 00:08-VM 01:10-TMV 02:08-MLMR 02:38-CGL 03:28-TBM 03:58-MBM 04:18-MS Arr-04:55.

3) on way to Mayiladuthurai – at midnight the SMS showed me that the train had just left Chidambaram – next station : Vaithisvaran koil scheduled at 04:32 Hrs  and expected to reach by : 05:25 Hrs ~ running close to an hour late …… great facility indeed. 

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.

28th Apr 2014.

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