Shivangini Arora is pursuing her Masters in global media at London University. On Friday, she was to fly back to London from Calcutta by British Airways (BA-146), but her parents did not allow her to board the flight. “Her classes are resuming but we’re scared to let her go. What if something goes wrong'” shuddered mother Sarita.
Shivangini was one among the 40-odd passengers who chose to cancel their British Airways tickets out of town on Friday morning.
According to sources, the flight with a capacity of 274 was initially overbooked, but left with 253 passengers on board. The flight that came in from London (BA-147) — the first after the terror scare — was only “half-full”, they added.
“There have been some cancellations. But holiday and leisure travellers are mostly postponing their journeys, while business and corporate passengers are travelling on schedule,” stressed a BA spokesperson from Delhi.
Travel agents reported “a panic” among those headed West. This was particularly true about students off to join colleges and universities in the UK next week.
“Passengers are cancelling or postponing their visits to Europe and the US, apprehensive of the security concerns and the related hassles,” said Anil Punjabi, chairman (east), Travel Agents Federation of India.
Heightened security measures at the airport were crowned by “instructions to all airlines operating to/from the UK and US”, only allowing the following items into the cabin — travel documents; a-pocket sized wallet; prescribed medicines (not in liquid form unless verified as authentic); sunglasses and spectacles (not with cases); contact lenses (no solution bottles); baby food and milk and sanitary items for kids on board; keys (no electric key fobs).
Cabin baggage is being allowed for all domestic destinations and for foreign destinations not in the UK and US.
“Hand baggage is being checked twice and passengers are being screened thoroughly,” said K.N. Tripathi, CISF commandant at Calcutta airport.
Several security tiers have been placed in and around the airport. Vehicles are being checked at the entry point of the service road to both terminals. Inside the terminal, the X-ray scan on the baggage apart, there is a manual check by CISF personnel. Passengers are being frisked and their baggage finally scanned by the airlines’ own security staff before boarding. The security paraphernalia is causing delays in flight schedules.
“Passengers are advised to come to the airport at least 30 minutes earlier than usual, and also travel light,” said a senior airport official.
Saturday’s Air-India flight has been cancelled, but for technical reasons.