Friday, January 09, 2009

covering unpleasantries

I'm back.

Air travel these days is a source of constant little irritations: those that don't really matter but we moan about anyway because we know the person sitting next to us will emphatise with our woeful experience.

This airline is generally great. I decided to use its services since it offered the best-priced (read: cheapest) deal available for the trip down under currently completed. It serves mediocre food and sold what resembles my favourite raspberry twists, which made me very happy with the cramped seating. That is, until the twists turned out to taste nothing like what they were made to resemble, I got to LAX and gained the curious yet dutiful attention of Dept of Homeland Security for not having a visa for transit.

Before we proceed, I shall duly point out that the beloved green RoI passport of mine is as much a source of amusement as it is of stress. RoI here stands for Republic of Indonesia and not Ireland, as how the term is currently interpreted (just for fun.)
Within it, there are many stamps and colourful hologrammed stickers. Immigration officials are repeatedly presented with an opportunity to brush up on their typing/data-entry skills as the passport's information page is handwritten and therefore non-scannable as most other passports (over 99% from observation) seem to be. Nevertheless, it gives me the perk of being identified as Indonesian and smile smugly (or nervously on occasions) as they fumble through the pages to find the right visa.

OK, back to Homeland Security.
They told me I needed to have a visa to transit.


Nobody told me so. On previous travels, I have never been asked for a visa to transit within the same airport, not even in nanny state Britain. When previous travels look like 40+ long haul flights and my parents retrospectively inquired in disbelief, it does feel strange indeed. I was told that to transit, I need to get out of the building, take a bus and get to the other side of the airport complex. And that there had been cases of travellers on C1 visa defecting their travel plans and thus illegally living in the States.

Fussy passenger flow management, or questionnable urban planning.
And bad assumption on their behalf: I prefer Melbourne to LA for holidays.

Anyhoo, I ended up not having to worry about waiting too long for the connecting flight. The Border officials are kind enough to show me around, interview me, take sets of fingerprinting and pictures (I wonder if they would hijack my Facebook account and replace the profile picture with a mug shot), being nice generally, being law enforment agencies overall, let me correct one of them, making my transit time enjoyable and memorable, and sue this for making them be so nice to me.

Which brings me to complain point #2: it didn't tell me I need a visa for transit (the global logic being one doesn't need one) (maybe one needs two), it didn't stop me from boarding that flight to LAX, and make me shell out more money in pursuit of returning to London lawfully in time for work experience. The deal that I thought was the best deal turns out to be much more costly than what it claimed to be.

Just for trivia, Homeland Security fined UA $3300 - more than the price of my ticket, but not big enough to get its lawyers worked out over contesting the fine.

But then, that's the corporation.
The people who work in it are fine and fun, and they are better-mannered than those of another US-based airline. (Can't remember which airline it was...) (Maybe it's good not to name names.)

And so does I conclude aforementioned unpleasantries.
More had cropped up between then and now, but my essays are waiting for me. So I'll use my jet-laggedness to do them. Till then! :))


Devi said...

Hehe, tapi emang bener sih, transit pun butuh visa. Gw pernah denger cerita siapa gtu lupa.. Dia mau ke Cyprus lewat Paris, di website Cyprus tourism gtu padahal dibilangin no visa required on transit. Begitu sampe di Paris, cowok itu dipenjara krn ga ada visa hahaha.. Consider yourself lucky :P

Mungkin Airlines itu ga ngasih tau krn mereka pikir lo uda sering traveling kali ya? Who knows..

johnorford said...

one of my ex-girlfriends (indoensian) needed a visa to get a connecting flight from germany to dublin (connecting in stansted).

vv dumb. in my experience united are dreadful, try etihad sometime -- they're not too expensive, and pretty much as good as sq!!

mukuge said...

@devi: yes I was lucky, they granted me an I-193 which is supposed to mean they let me off that one time only. aneh deh, krn koq ga ada yang 'nangkep' ya pas beli tiket, checking in, immigration and boarding onto the plane?

@john: etihad was good - but they didn't have any available! so I was stuck with the little devil that united has become in my mind... and the little devil turned out to cost more than it promised itself to be.

Devi said...

Dunno. That one is still a mystery to me :D