Air travel tips for the terminally stupid

Christ, I just caught that.

You caught it faster than I did, actually. That was a completely unintentional pun.

As long as I’m here…more applause for mrs jjimm, and for the Englishwoman ahead of her for good measure

Several years ago (yes, before the 9/11 attack), I was in an airport in Italy where you had to take shuttles from the gate to the plane. There were signs at each gate listing your destination, and IIRC, someone there to at least glance at the fact that you had a boarding pass. Now I’m certainly not fluent in Italian by any means - I knew a very few words, and kept a couple of tourist-useful phrase books and dictionaries on me. Still, I found that it wasn’t difficult to find where I was going. After getting off the shuttle, I boarded the plane and took my seat. A couple minutes later, another American woman walked up in the aisle, looked at the seat numbers, and said, “Excuse me, you’re in my seat.” I stated that there must be a mistake, as I certainly wasn’t. She insisted that I was, and showed me her ticket. I explained to her that yes, that was the right seat number, but the wrong plane, as this plane was headed to Dulles and not (IIRC) New York. I hope she managed to catch her flight.

Last month, I was on a trip to attend a research conference. On my way back, I was taking a flight out of the Dallas-Ft. Worth airport, and I noticed a woman who was definitely over the “2 small carryon items” (one suitcase-type bag, one other item including purse/briefcase, umbrella, etc.) limit. She had a gigantic backpack strapped onto her back, the size you’d take on a long backpacking trip, and it was stuffed to overflowing with things. The zipper was held shut with safety pins or else it’d bulge open. She also had a purse, a big paper department store shopping bag full of items (including a cardboard-backed print that stuck out of the top, and some kind of rolled cardboard tube like the kind used to carry artwork or architectural plans. The airport staff waited until she got up to the boarding pass check before pulling her aside; I’d assumed they were at least going to make her check her backpack, but I saw it being stowed inside the plane later. If these airlines are going to make rules about size of carryons and number of items, why don’t they stick to it? I have one of those black wheeled bags that doesn’t fit most airlines’ carryon restrictions, so I check it, but every other passenger on the plane carries it on!

:rolleyes: :rolleyes: :rolleyes: :rolleyes: Indeed, and everyone including infants has to fill one out. “Why yes sir. My 3 year old sister is a nazi war criminal” Gaaah

I would like to know what they expect to get from those questions. Do they expect insane, nazi terrorirst drug smugglers to answer yes?

Has anyone ever answered yes on these questions?

WAG: I wonder it’s so if they do subsequently pick somebody up on a drugs charge or something, they’ve de facto got a Federal charge against them, for lying on entry to the US? I guess this would make it much easier to deport them and never let them in again?

Additional note - anybody who is HIV positive has to lie on these forms, otherwise they’re forbidden entry.

Do you non-USers get the Questions? We do here in the States. Used to be checkin person had to ask you 3 questions, along the lines of,

Did you pack your luggage yourself? (“Well, I was going to, but this nice man named Osama just happened to be passing by…”)

Has anyone handed you any strange packages or bags? (“There is this ticking thing…”)

And another one along these lines. Then, they got sick of having the check in person do it, so they’d just say “Read that and answer the questions for me” and point to a little card and you’d say, “No. no. No.” Now they have self check-in kiosks…that ask the same question. Cause no one would ever lie to a machine!

I remember back in the '80s it appeared even more absurd. You had to check the same box if you were or ever had been:[ul][]A convicted drug smuggler.[]A convicted gun runner.[]A communist.[][/ul]When this form was in existence, a friend of my dad’s had married an American woman, and they were emigrating from the UK to the States. Unfortunately for him, he’d been a member of the RCP during the 1960s, so had to check the box. He had to convince the INS (via references and documentary evidence) that not only was he no longer a commie, but that he had been actively campaigning against communism ever since. It took him 5 years to get a visa.

Reminds me of a Comedy Central cartoon commercial using audio from a (Dennis Leary?) standup. He and his friend are flying to Canada and he’s mentioning some of the stupid questions he has to fill out the form, checking off “No” for each of the answers. Then he gets to:

" ‘Do you plan on visiting any farms while in Canada’. Nnnoo… wait. Why are they asking this? Why do they want to know this? What the hell is going on with these farms?"

:looks at friend: “What did you put for #6?”

“I put know but we’re DEFINITELY going!”

Know = no :frowning:

And now, a tip for airport staff. But first, a little backstory:

A colleague and I flew into Dallas last week on business. While there, we rented a car. The Dallas airport has a very nice shuttle system from the terminals to the car-rental area.

However, when we dropped off the car, we had some trouble. After returning the car, we walked into the shuttle-bus boarding area and looked for our shuttle. The boarding area is a long, curving curb; the buses pull up to the curb in designated areas (A, B, C, D, and E, depending on which terminal your flight leaves from). We were heading toward our designated area (E) when a bus pulled up and parked halfway between the D and E sections. The electronic destination flashy-thingy on it said “Terminal E.”

So we trundled our stuff over there and started to board, along with about 20 other people. For some reason (and God bless him for doing this), my associate asked the driver as we were getting on, “You going to Terminal E?”

The driver looked at him as though he were fourteen pounds of stupid in a twelve-pound bag. “No. I’m going to D.”

We stopped, thinking that surely he was joking. My associate asked again. “Not Terminal E?” Other folks, who were waiting on the steps to board the bus, began muttering amongst themselves.

“D! I’m going to D!” the driver said emphatically.

My associate and I didn’t have anything invested in this conversation, so we just trundled our way through the bus and out the back doors, heading on down to section E. We noted, as we passed, that the bus still had “Terminal E” on its flashy-thingy, along with the fact that the bus was exactly straddling the demarcation point on the curb between sections D and E.

As we walked, though, we heard evidence that other travelers did not take so kindly to the mistake as we did. “Your destination says E!”

The driver was not to be outdone. “I can’t change what’s on the panel! I’m the D bus!”

“You’re parked in the E section!”

“No I ain’t! This the D section! Can’t you read!”

And so on. Of the twenty or so people who attempted to board that bus, only three stayed on once the bus pulled away. I sincerely hope they were planning to go to the D terminal.

When our bus arrived, we asked the driver why they wouldn’t allow him to change the destination on his electronic panel. He looked puzzled. “They do let us do that,” he said. He pointed to a keyboard mounted beside his seat. “I just type in here the terminal I’m going to. I just hit one key, and it changes it automatically.”

So, my tip to the ground transportation personnel at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (and particularly the driver of the Terminal D bus on March 12): Expand your horizons. Use the equipment you’re given. When fourteen pounds of stupid is smarter than you, you’ve got a problem.

Here’ what you want to do when you’re running late:

While carrying your suitcase, jacket and briefcase, stop and get a large hot cup of coffee. Squeeze onto the plane way after your boarding announcement with your suitcase, jacket and briefcase while you balance a hot cup of cofee. Spill coffee onto the belly portion of your shirt to match the other stains that found your protruding out of shape free-meeting-lunch-hogging belly that is bulging over your size 36 pants, even though you should be wearing a 44" inch waist.
Yeah, buddy…please tell me all about your fascinating job that allows you to wear cheesey golf shirts with curled up collars. You oversee all that stuff? Boy, you’re a hotshot. Yes, give me a card…so I can call your fathead boss and tell him you’re too stupid to get to the gate on-time, and that you are clear headed enough to get a big cup of coffee while running late.

Why don’t your squirm some more in your seat you bloated, sweaty, disorganized bad shirt, ill fitting docker wearing dork.

Hmmm… Let me think. Does that include 1945 or only go up to 1945?

Well, then my answer is no.


Being a USian myself, I’ve never paid attention to the I-94W. Until this thread.

The form asks only about genocide? That’s awfully narrow-minded. That question wouldn’t slow down a Dalek, which is hell-bent on committing xenocide.

Oh yea…and…

When you’re getting on a plane that’ll be in the air for 14 hours, make sure to bring nothing to do. This way, you can bother everyone around you for 14 hours. Or stare at me while I’m trying to read my book.

I hear what you’re saying, but I recall that when I used to fly many years ago, I frequently received misinformation from airlines and airport people. Sometimes they were misinformed, sometimes they were sloppy, sometimes they were flat out lying.

So yeah, I’d be concernced that the bus that says “out of service” is actually the bus I need to get where I need to go; that I can get on the plane through the “first class only” line, ensuring some valuable overhead storage space; or that the gate agent knows more about the status of a flight than she’s letting on and that if I question her, I can get valuable information that will help let me decide what to do next.

Of course, I haven’t flown in years, maybe things are different now.

Perhaps I’m misunderstanding you, but that has happened to me on domestic flights. This incident was in July 2001. I got to the gate (as I had a valid ticket) but we got there just as the flight was boarding. It was overbooked, they couldn’t issue me a boarding pass, and instead put us on the next flight out, first class AND issued a refund check for $400 (not a travel voucher. Amazing.) This was an American Airlines flight from O’Hare to Sacramento.

Oh, and tips for expediating x-ray machines and metal detectors. I swear, even somewhat seasoned travelers approach these machines and act like they’ve just introduced the devices to airports. If you’re wearing a jacket, while you’re waiting in line, just take all your shit (your coins, your wallet, your rings, your cell phone, heck–your glasses–anything you even think has the remotest chance of setting the thing off) out of your pockets, put it in a jacket pocket, and send it through the machine. Walk through the metal detector, pick up your stuff, and be on your merry way. Since doing this, I almost never set off the detectors.

Guess things are different over there :slight_smile: In Europe, you’re getting nowhere near the departure lounge unntil you’ve checked in and got a boarding pass, including domestic flights.

[semi-hijack] Indeed, the whole purpose of those ridiculous questions on the I-94W is so that if it’s later shown you lied, you can be deported for fraud in gaining entry. (Kind of like catching Al Capone for tax evasion.)

It’s the same principle that’s used against Nazi war criminals who had entered the U.S. initially as displaced persons; in order to enter the U.S. as a displaced person, you were forbidden to have engaged in the persecution of others. Any subsequent immigration benefit a person gains through the chain of events commencing with the initial fraud in entry can be revoked if the fraud is proven later, up to and including U.S. citizenship; there’s no statute of limitations. There is an entire unit of the Justice Dept. devoted to prosecuting war criminals for fraud and having them stripped of their citizenship and removed from the U.S. permanently; I’ve had the distinct privilege of reading the case files on a few of these evil excuses for human beings, including eyewitness testimony from concentration camp survivors. Note to self; never read eyewitness testimony of Holocaust survivors before lunch.

(And by the way, being HIV-positive, or indeed having certain criminal convictions, isn’t always an absolute bar from entering the U.S.; it just means you need to apply for a formal visa and/or any necessary waivers of whatever your barrier to entry is.)

Eva Luna, Immigration Paralegal and former Immigration Court Interpreter

O’Hare is in Chicago. :wink: