Thursday, March 13, 2014
A Boo-Boo At Airport
It happened in the 80s when I was working at the airport. It was another typical flight departure where our flight was bounded for Amsterdam which left on time. After the flight had touched down, we were informed by the Dutch immigration that there were some Middle Eastern passengers on the flight who were travelling on forged passports. As an international accepted practise, they had to be deported back to the port of origin since their nationality could not be ascertained and in this instance, it was Singapore. They were then immediately put back on the same flight to Singapore which had a stopover in Delhi on either way.
I was not on duty when the return flight landed at Changi Airport. There was no need to call for enhanced security as it was a normal case of deportee where the arrival staff would escort them to the immigration. There were about five men if I remember correctly. When they arrived at the arrival hall, two suddenly dashed past the immigration, past the customs and finally past the police check point. Three were stopped in time and the other two could not be found.
The Singapore immigration was furious and insisted that the airline had to send them back to where they were originally headed. They remained steadfast that their passports were original. Reluctantly, we put back the three persons on our first available flight to Amsterdam again. I was on duty for the departure flight and that was the first time I caught a good glance of the trio. They were mostly rotund looking Middle Eastern men and bulky figure aside, some can really make a quick dash. This time, we had security to escort them.
Off they went on their second consecutive trip to Amsterdam. The Dutch would not budge. They were very sure that their passports were forged and to prove their point, they sent one of their immigration officers to fly with the deportees. However, the Singapore immigration insisted that we should not re-board the passengers and if we do so, we could be barred from entering into Singapore airspace. As a commercial entity, we were caught in between two authorities. However, the Dutch were no pushover either. They were not wrong to insist that the passengers be deported back to the port of origin.
I was on duty to handle the arrival flight. When the men walked out of the aerobridge, one of them quickly kneel down begging us not to re-board them again. They had been flying for more than 48 hours, they did not have any proper bath and they certainly had enough of flying. They were finally handed to the Singapore immigration officials and that was the last time we heard from them.