Being a frequent flyer I thought it would be useful to share tips that I have picked up on. Lots of people who are or look like they are from the Middle East or South Asia are often stopped at airports across North America and Europe for extra security checks. These checks have become standard after 9/11 but more recently security measures are tightening up even further with the introduction of full body scanners at airports. There was a lot of noise in the parliament about how this is a violation of human rights and that Pakistanis do not deserve to be the victims of such discriminatory measures. However Faisal Shahzad came along and like so many idiots before him, gave the West even more reason to haul me into the back room when I fly back in to the US.
For the time being, Egyptians, Indians, and anyone who looks like their uncle’s second cousin’s son-in-law is brown is going to be stopped will continue to be stopped and harassed in airports in the West. I being a six foot four twenty something Pakistani stick out like a sore thumb at airports and have often been asked ‘Sir could you come with us please, we would like to ask you a few questions.’ Now there are two things I and any other person in this situation could do. Either I could stand there and protest my innocence, pointing out I am a college student simply seeking an education and refuse to fall victim to such blatantly racists practices. Or, I could make everyone’s life easier by co-operating with the immigration officer. So far, I have always chosen the latter during the numerous times I have had to go through extra security checks, and because of it always have a very comfortable time travelling the world. If you would like to enjoy yourself like I do while up in the air, here are a few suggestions:
1.Never get frustrated. As irritating as it may be to be singled out for special treatment, the person cross-examining you has to deal with hundreds of annoyed innocent people like you every day. It is therefore in your best interest to not piss off a probably at this point agitated immigration officer.
2.Arrive early. Between the time you check in and the time you board a million things can happen. You might have over packed your suitcases and have to transfer weight between luggage. You might get to the wrong terminal by accident. Whatever the issue might be, the extra hour or so spent in the airport to be on the safe side is well worth the peace of mind.
3.Avoid JFK/Newark while flying internationally. Everybody from the TSA personnel to the immigration officers is absolutely obnoxious. Instead, I have been flying in and out of Chicago the last couple of years and quite surprisingly have never been sent for extra checking at O’Hare, lovely people up here in the Midwest!
4.Bring your entertainment. Relying entirely on the inflight entertainment system can be risky as the system could crash or the headphone jack in your seat might not work (both things that have happened to me). Being stuck without a plan B for 18 hours will make it a very long flight indeed.
5.Don’t set the metal detectors of. Now this is not a problem in Detroit airport where it happens so often it’s almost expected. I once saw a man walking through the metal detectors in only his boxers and still managing to set the metal detector off. However, in all other airports setting of the metal detectors is annoying, and it draws attention to you, something you want to avoid anyway. Just remember to take off your belt, bling, etc and you are all clear.
6.If you cannot sleep well on airplanes, don’t try and sleep deprive yourself to be extra tired on the aircraft to make it easier to sleep, it doesn’t work. Also the meals are not particularly filling up in the air, so a hearty meal before boarding is also a good idea.
7.Lastly, if your flight is on August 7th don’t show up to the airport on the August 8th. Not exactly my best moment… Flying internationally is fun and exciting, you just need to avoid getting worked up during security checks.