Starting from Kerala in India, we were facing a long journey and then an overnight flight home to the UK, and we wanted to keep as fresh as possible. This was not so easy, because the first part involved a five-hour car ride from Varkala to Cochin International Airport in the heat of the day, but we arrived there with time to spare without too much difficulty. At the Cochin Airport check-in, the attendant mumbled something about not having power banks in our hold luggage, but I wasn’t sure that that was what he’d said, and in any case I have a tendency of not admitting to anything in such circumstances, so we checked-in as usual. I also vaguely remembered something I’d heard, somewhere, about not carrying power banks in cabin luggage, and subconsciously connected that with what the attendant had said.
Our itinerary meant that we flew firstly to Delhi, and then left for London Heathrow in the middle of the night, at about 2.15 am, though that flight ended up being delayed for half an hour or so.
There are all sorts of in-transit security checks at Delhi, but we eventually ended up in departures, and were looking for things to buy with our remaining Rupees when I thought I heard my name being announced on the tannoy. Well, I thought, that can’t be me, so I ignored it, as one does.
The second time there was an announcement I listened more closely, and sure enough, my name had been mentioned. I had not heard where I was supposed to go, so I went over to security and asked what I should do. The guard said I should go to the Gate from where my flight was leaving, which I did. All the time my mind was racing…what could it be? Why did they want me? Was I about to be interrogated for unknown reasons? Had someone died?
At the gate, a woman was waiting. I introduced myself and she was clearly relieved that I had appeared. “Do you have a power bank in your checked-in luggage?” she asked. Gulp. Mea culpa. She explained that I would have to accompany her to where my luggage was located, and that I could not take anything with me, definitely not my mobile phone, or water, but only the keys needed to open my case.
Well, then it got very interesting. I followed her to a corner of the departure lounge where she filled in a form while being watched over by an armed guard, indicated that I had to sign the form (what was I signing?) and then ushered me to a lift. We descended two floors and emerged in that part of the airport where an overhead automated baggage-handling system was delivering vast amounts of luggage to different destinations. It was like a large warehouse. We went under some conveyor belts, through a door, along a corridor, and into a room where I immediately noticed our bags on a table. It didn’t take long to extract the two power banks which I held up like offending objects, and then the woman indicated that I should once more follow her. We retraced our steps, signing out on the same list beside the guard, and then I had once more to go through security to get back to departures.
It was somehow reassuring to know that small items such as power banks could be identified so easily amongst thousands of bags, presumably using x-rays, and that Indian airport security was so efficient.
The rest of the journey didn’t exactly go smoothly. We landed at Heathrow only to discover that all flights to Edinburgh, and several other destinations, had been cancelled due to snow. There was a long queue of people at Terminal 5 waiting to re-schedule, so we joined the line, thankful that BA had thoughtfully supplied a trolley with free snacks and drinks. Some people were opting to go on a standby list for possible flights the next day, but I’d heard that Edinburgh Airport was not expected to be clear until the day after, so we decided to get confirmed flights for the Saturday. We were assured that we could claim back hotel costs from BA, and so we proceeded to a hotel a ten minute ride from the terminal.
When I later checked my phone messages I was very confused to see, as shown below, that my Ref for the BA website included an emoji!
Hmm. In my befuddled and sleep-deprived state it took me a few minutes to figure out that my messenger app had translated it from Ref :OQOQWU
We eventually got home 84 hours after leaving Varkala.