Calcutta, Oct. 31: Militants, we’re told, can’t get in, but moms surely can.
So it was proved on a Delhi to Calcutta flight of a private airline this morning.
“Seat belt mat kholna, samjhe (Don’t take off your set belt, understand)”, or some such thing the middle-aged lady said, finger lifted, to the boy, between five and eight years.
The engines were humming, the plane was minutes away from taxiing. And then the flight attendants realised something could be amiss.
A lot was amiss. This lady, a concerned mother of a little boy travelling alone, had escaped the eyes of five layers of inspection to get on the plane without a ticket just so she could see her son off.
When the air-hostesses confronted her — as she had stood up while the plane was about to move — she told them she was there to say bye to her son.
“I’m a parent, and you should know how to talk to a parent,” she told them in Hindi, little realising that she had achieved what any militant would be proud of.
There was also this minor point which had passed her notice: that the plane was about to take off as she was schooling her son on the dos and don’ts of flying.
The plane might have actually flown with her had her raised voice not been audible above the whirr of the engines, alerting the flight attendants, who had till that point thought her to be a passenger.
Embarrassed air-hostesses got her off the flight — the rouge on their cheeks a shade darker.
The embarrassment — for airport and airline officials —continued through the day, as they fumbled and transferred phone calls back and forth, unable to explain the security breach.
“Such a situation did arise, but it was not a cause of discomfort or delay,” confirmed an airline official at Delhi airport.
The flight — scheduled to take off at 9.10 am — eventually left over half an hour late.
Airline passengers have to undergo the first check at the gate of the terminal where they have to show their tickets. The next check takes place when they collect the boarding pass.
The security inspection follows with CISF personnel stamping the boarding card as security cleared.
The lady and her son made their way through all this with a single boarding pass, presumably.
There is a fourth inspection before passengers board the bus to get to the plane and the last one before they get on the aircraft when the counterfoil is stripped away by an airline official.
Security is the business of the airport authority and the rest the airline’s responsibility.
Airport officials refused to deny or confirm the incident, directing all queries to the airline.
“We have not received any such information, but we cannot deny it,” said the airport manager in Delhi, who identified herself as Mrs Bhaskaran.
When a child is travelling alone, parents are supposed to come to the airport well in advance and hand the child over to a flight attendant, signing a statement that the child is flying at his or her own risk.