The India e-Tourist visa and the Transit Airport Troubles

The online check-in had already presented me with issues it shouldn’t have: it tried to force me to enter details of our German visa – we don’t need one – and I couldn’t get past that part of the process. Except, if you cancel the check-in process and start again it start’s from where you left off and forgets about the mistaken need for a German visa, until the next passenger and then you have to repeat the quit/start-again process.

I thought this would be the only visa problem, I was wrong.

At Heathrow check-in they thoroughly checked our visas for India, no problem, everything’s fine. We went through security with a bit of an issue, but after that it’s plain sailing we thought.

We had two hours in in Munich airport before our transfer to the Mumbai bound flight left, plenty of time as our baggage was handled automatically.

The Lufthansa announcer at the gate informed us we all needed our boarding passes stamped before we’d be allowed to travel. No problem, everything’s correct and in order, this will be easy.

“This is not a visa, this is only the application form.”
“It’s not, it’s what you get sent when the application is granted, that’s why it’s got the barcode and our attached passport photo. It’s a new visa style, for short term tourists, have you seen them before?”
“No, you must have a stamped visa in your passport, you cannot fly to Mumbai”.
We had to talk to another officer who suggested looking for emails on my phone, which wasn’t working, the airport WiFi was dead and although I knew I should be able to use data on my contract in the Euro it just wasn’t working. Turns out I hadn’t switched ‘data roaming’ on!

Eventually I got emails stating the visas had been granted.

And this was enough to get us through.

So, the key lesson is: if you’re travelling on a new style visa it’s probably likely airport staff in places won’t know about it so take every last little bit of information you have. An untrained, or rather unaware, member of transit airport staff almost stopped us getting to India, she had the final say and we in the end were lucky.

Insulin pumps and full body scanners at airports

Arriving in Heathrow, checking in to our Mumbai via Munich flight was a breeze, it hardly could have been easier, except for the slight confusion between my “don’t let the x-ray staff bamboozle you with tales that the bodyscanner will be okay with the insulin pump, it’s not” and the “he said it would be fine”.

Security checks often feature high in the list of people with diabetes who are infrequent flyers. It was for us too as we have only flown once post Amy’s Type 1 Diabetes diagnosis. Back then all we had to worry about was taking insulin and other medical kit through. Now though we had the added issue of Amy’s insulin pump which she wears 24/7 and the two backup insulin pumps we were carrying, just in case.

The rules on insulin pumps and x-rays are pretty clear for most:
– they’re okay through the walkthrough scanner although it’s easier to disconnect them briefly and pass to a security officer
– the pumps must not go through the conveyor belt x-ray machines
– the pumps must not be subjected to the newer full body scanners.
However some frequent flyers say this is all rubbish, and I’ve read things from others who state that you’ll be subjected to more x-rays on the plane than any machine would. I have no idea what’s right so I have to believe the insulin pump companies.

On top of what the pump companies say, Amy’s insulin pump is out of warranty, if it breaks she’ll not get another one until we sign up to another four year contract.

Jane and Amy went through first, mentioning the diabetes kit and insulin pumps to the officer who was well used to dealing with medical issues. I went through and was told to move on and told not to hang around Jane/Amy who were held up with checks. “Whatever you do, don’t let him tell you it’s okay for the pump to go through the full-body scanner” I whispered as I walked off.

A few minutes later I saw Amy in the full body scanner.

The security had bamboozled Jane in the confusion of the situation, easily understandable for us infrequent flyers who are like fishes out of water in situations like that.

My heart sank. Oh crap, that’s one pump down, two backups and two flights to go, I thought.

Well, I hope I’m not going to regret this in the coming days but the pump is still working 24 hours later