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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Back to the routine..

Back in the US and back to the daily routine. Almost forgot that we were in India for a month!

Some travel tips for other folks who might be traveling with kids to the US.

1. Carry on Baggage : Throughout the journey from here to India, we had one carry on bag per person (even the baby who has a 75% ticket gets a carry on bag) and a laptop bag (San, me, her brother all had laptop bags!) and baby had her diaper bag. This is allowed per Cathay Pacific and almost all the other airlines. When we checked our suitcases in Chennai and got our boarding pass, the person at the counter gave us two tags each and said the laptop bags and diaper/ milk bag were allowed. After going through customs and immigration, there is a security check point just in front of the gate manned by some police like uniformed guys. Do not know if they are government or private security. They said "one bag only!! either your carry bag or laptop bag.. choose !!". There were a lot of guys ahead of me who were shouting and yelling in protest, but the security guys said "idhar lika hai" (it is written here) and pointed to some fine print on a board which was put only at this security gate! They asked all the people to wait for the various airline representatives to show up. I was wondering what to do, when the guy in front of me (Tamizh guy flying in Air France flight) walked out of the line, opened his little suitcase removed all the neatly ironed pants and shirts. He proceeded to put them over his left arm, then covered them with his Leather Jacket. He had put his laptop bag inside the bigger carry on in the space he had created. He gave me a wink and went through the security check. Insipired by this, I saw that I could actually expand my carry on bag by opening a zipper that goes all around the bag. It made the bag look really heavy, but these guards were just obsessed with the one bag only policy. I quickly shoved my laptop bag inside (Couldnt even pull the zipper over completely, so I put on a thick shirt and Jacket which I was going to take out once we reached SFO!). I got through thanks to some expert cooperation from baby, who silently watched the proceedings. After I went to the gate, we sat next to the Air France dude and he said "Govt. rules! You just have to find a workaround. Arguing is not going to solve anything. That guy who is yelling over there is sooo screwed!". I thanked him with all my heart for getting me through that checkpoint..

2. Security : We came to Hongkong at 3:20. Our next flight out to San Francisco was 4:30 and boarding was to start at 4:10. That gave us 50 minutes to leave one gate and go to another gate in the same terminal. They made all the passengers go through an X-ray checkpoint and by the time we made it near the other gate it was 4:15 !! That is when we got the big shock. We were diverted to another security check. Apparently the policy is that people boarding flights to the US have to go through an additional manual security check. There were 40 dudes in four rows holding up green signs to say they are ready to check. A security guy diverts everyone coming in the line to one of the 40 chekers. So San ends up in one corner, me in another corner and we all carry the extra kids bags. The guys go through everything.. EVERYTHING ! I was asked about the "rasam saadam" (rice with gravy) that was packed for Jr.'s in-flight food..Was even asked to taste it. I just smiled and did it. One chinese guy remarked "they really take it out on the US bound passengers here!" He was right. I was questioned about the milk flask, the bottled Gerber baby foods, etc. etc.

3. Got Milk ? After we boarded the flight (we were one of the last ones to board), San asks the hostess to get some warm milk for the baby and she replies "we don't have milk on the flight maam. only dairy creamer!" We paid 900 odd dollars for that 75% ticket for baby and we don't get milk ?! Then another hostess came and said "you guys should get your own milk for the baby". I explained to her that someohow the milk in our flask got spoilt (and showed her the flask), and also told her that this was a long 14 hour flight and we definitely were given milk in the many times we travelled with a baby on this leg. Finally a senior air hostess said "let me check if we have any in Business class" and got us some milk!!! It was pretty obvious that they had the milk but for some reason, wanted to hold on to it. Later a different air hostess said "if we give you milk, then everyone just asks for milk to drink!".. I was thinking "if you serve food that is not easy on the stomach, then obviously the older people and kids are going to ask for a banana and milk".. Incidentally, there were no bananas either on the flight!

So folks coming on the pacific route via Hongkong, please:

1. make sure your carry on bag is expandable or put your laptop inside one bag
2. run to the next gate in Hongkong. That X-ray check does not get you in the next flight!
3. Take a huge flask of milk! and be ready to taste it in HongKong in front of the security guy.. Incidentally, you might find out that the milk is spoilt!! and if you are worried about the food, BYOB (bring your own banana - that is!).

It was a refreshing trip on a lot of fronts. Will post soon with pictures..

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I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 5:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote...


Big tip. I usually fly Lufthansa to India ( I dislike this airlines) - but MAS - Malaysian Airlines is a much better choice.
The tickets are only about $1100 -$1200 from LAX ->Taiwan-> KL ->Chennai.

Since, you have to wait at the KL airport for about 8 hours or 10 hours - they even put you up at a hotel.

Security is smoother in Taiwan and KL on the way back too. The Indian Vegetarian menu on flight is also awesome, you get things like aloo pratha, payasam etc...Seriously I think this is a better choice.


I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 2:21 PM, Blogger Balaji S Rajan wrote...

Welcome back Sundarji! Hope you had a great time.

I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 7:54 PM, Blogger visithra wrote...

U guys must have been anxious running between security checks - i can imagine it - but i have heard the msian flight is a better option as well though i think its longer - but u could c the city ;)

welcome back btw ;) - junior looks adorable in that photo

I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 12:18 AM, Blogger R Venkatachalam wrote...

That tip was very useful for guiding my cousin on his way back to USA.


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