Indira Gandhi International Airport
Drone Drama. And lots of it.
Of course we were expecting some level of security dilemma regarding the drone especially when our eldest 16-year old daughter Charlie is carrying one between countries and the drone laws are not consistent nor as clear as they could be.
It started at the check-in when we asked the lady behind the desk if the drone, packed in its Parrot branded backpack, would be preferred to be checked in as luggage (ie. under the plane) or could we take it with us as carry-on luggage. Charlie had prepared and packed for both scenarios.
Her response was a flippant (I have no idea), “take it through security and if they don’t like it as carry-on just bring it back and check it in.” Sounded straight forward at the time.
So with our Indian visas stamped, we progressed to the long snaking line for security checks before being accepted into no man’s land. The six of us were all scattered into different security aisles, and when I finally came out of my security line and into no man’s land, (and being the final member of our family through security) I knew something was up when Charlie and Steve were not waiting there for me.
I found them discussing the drone with security. The security man had denied the drone entry and the best Steve could get out of the security man was that we were to go to Gate 15 and ask an Aeroflot Airlines ground staff member to come up to security because we were not permitted to go back and check the drone in as luggage as we had already passed through customs (of course!). So Steve walked off in search of this person at Gate 15 – (unfortunately that Gate was nothing to do with Aeroflot), while we waited on a bench chair near security and twiddled our thumbs while Charlie paced up and down. Steve was gone a long time, so I wandered off to look for him.
I found him waiting by an Information counter, and he had a young woman calling Aeroflot ground staff to come and attend to our security matter. She called four times. We waited patiently.
Finally, a young man from Aeroflot walked back to the security area with us, and there he asked Charlie to dismantle the battery pack from the drone. He spoke clear Hindi with the security personnel. Charlie took the battery out and we were informed that the drone would now be checked in as luggage as long as we carried the battery pack on board. The young man walked off with our drone and told Steve that he would bring the luggage check-in ticket to the Gate when boarding.
Ok so far so good. That wasn’t too bad. Just a pain waiting around for an hour, but at least now it was sorted. Tick!
Or so we thought.
As we are about to board our Aeroflot Airlines flight from Indira Gandhi International Airport to Moscow two Aeroflot men approach Steve and another customer telling them there was a security issue with our luggage. We just assumed it was a problem with the drone bag. So while I stood guarding our pile of hand luggage, Steve and Charlie explained the drone’s security story while Charlie was pulling the drone battery out of her hand luggage and trying to explain the situation.
But they could not make any sense out the Aeroflot ground staff. At all. I watched as Steve was asked to follow the Aeroflot man back up to Information. Steve was overflowing with confusion. The language barrier was immensely frustrating and so too was getting what was actually so. No one knew what the actual problem was, only that it was in Charlie’s name. The other girls would come over and update me as to what was happening. It was not looking good.
“Mum you need to come over and help dad,” was the request from Ash. So I wandered over to the gate counter, as all the passengers were boarding. There an Aeroflot ground staff man was not explaining very well the new and current security breach situation. We could not understand what was happening. He was telling Charlie to sign a security document which would allow airport security to open the bag. Charlie started getting upset. Steve had started pointing his finger. I clearly expressed to the young and now agitated Aeroflot man that he really needed to explain the situation more clearly otherwise we were not boarding the flight. He just kept telling Charlie to sign the document otherwise, “your bag stays in India and you will have to come back to India to collect it at another time.” Ah no that’s not going to happen thank you very much!
Our family of six and two other passengers who also had security issues were left lingering and arguing with Aeroflot staff at the gate.
To cut a long and unnecessarily dramatic story short, an Aeroflot ground staff woman who was standing next to the agitated young man tapped him on the shoulder and asked him to leave. He moved out of the way and she explained that it was not necessarily the drone bag, but another bag, a larger bag that had breached security in luggage check in scanning – some sort of small battery, maybe a lighter, or electronic device that needed to be looked at before it could be loaded onto the plane. Now we were really scratching our heads. Another bag? They added it may not be the black drone bag, but a red one maybe. We had a red backpack? This was starting to get quite confusing. Really?
By this time Charlie, Ash and Dacey were shedding tears. It was 1.30am and we were being told to sign a flimsy piece of paper. Charlie’s signature had to be just like what her passport showed – otherwise the suspect luggage would not board the flight. Steve dug into his bag, found the keys for the small padlock we had placed onto the drone bag and Charlie signed the form while I quickly found our Airbnb address in Malaga, Spain to write down on the form. We were informed that the luggage may be on the next Aeroflot flight, but it should catch up with us on our connecting Aeroflot flight from Moscow to Malaga (we had a 4-hour stopover in Moscow airport).
We showed our boarding passes and walked past the gate down the narrow walkway. It was eerily quiet. We were last to board. Of course with all the last minute commotion Steve was not handed the drone bag check in luggage ticket was he…
Sheremetyevo (Moscow) International Airport
After wandering around for four hours, we are about to board the on time Aeroflot connecting flight, and Steve checks with the Russian Aeroflot ground staff at the gate how many pieces of luggage are actually checked in under our names. The reply is – 9. Perfect – we had 8 pieces at India check in and the drama with the drone makes 9. So we board assuming the drone bag and any other article of luggage is on board our flight to Malaga.
Five hours later, we land into Malaga International Airport. We thoroughly enjoy glancing out the plane window to catch a glimpses of the Spanish landscape and coastline below and it does not disappoint our weary and tired eyes. We are all very excited to be starting the next part of journey.
After a very long wait getting through customs at Malaga Airport, we collect only 8 pieces of luggage. There is no Parrot branded bag to be seen on the now stationary luggage carousel. We walk around in a state of limbo looking for help but the airport is more like a ghost town at 3pm. It is Good Friday after all.
We ask a man in an airport uniform where to go for lost luggage and he points us in the right direction. We go there and notice another two people are also missing luggage from the Moscow flight.
And when the lovely Spanish lady behind the lost luggage counter asks Steve for the luggage ticket – we breathe a big fat sigh of anguish. The Indian man never handed it to Steve and in the state of anxiety we forgot to ask for it! So she is looking at our 8 pieces of luggage sitting on two airport trolleys and they’re all matching the 8 luggage tickets! So we have to explain the whole story once more for the Spanish lady and she sort of just stares at us with a horrified look for not having that golden luggage ticket. We completely understand her shock. We are all still completely in this debacle. But I’m quietly amazed at how we’re all holding together.
So we fill out another form, I scrounge around for our Malaga Airbnb address again, and we write the mobile number of the Spanish landlord down, as we don’t have a Spanish sim yet. We leave the lost luggage lady with the word PARROT written on the piece of paper in capital letters and walk away with our fingers crossed.
Malaga Day 2
Steve completes an online lost luggage form through Aeroflot with a description of the bag. We head into Malaga city in search of a sim card so we can make some calls. We call the lost luggage lady at Malaga Airport when we return to our apartment and give her our new phone number. Aeroflot sends us a reply email informing us that the missing luggage is on a flight from Moscow tonight scheduled to arrive at 10pm. We call the lost luggage lady at Malaga Airport and enquire about the drone bag again. She confirms that the bag will be delivered tomorrow morning to our address. Yay!
Malaga Day 3
The morning comes and it goes. We head out to the city for some food and sightseeing. The courier company calls telling us the Parrot bag will be delivered to our apartment in 10 minutes. He does not understand English when we try and tell him that we will catch a taxi back to the apartment and will be there in 15 minutes…please wait. He hangs up! We jump into two taxis to take us back to the apartment, there’s a road closure due to Easter Celebrations…but on the way our Malaga Airport lost luggage lady calls me after the courier man hangs up and I tell her we are on our way from the city to our apartment now, “please make sure the courier man waits out the front until we arrive.”
As we walk up our street there is a man hovering at the double doors to our apartment block with a black Parrot bag over his shoulder.
We all smile and let out a long awaited sigh of relief. We head up to our 4th floor apartment with the bag and open it up to inspect the drone. All is good with the drone but we are still not quite sure what the security issue actually was back in India.