Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Airport literacy and the language of scan



So, I was in a large international airport recently, en route to a smaller regional airport. I had flown in the day before and had to overnight to get a connection. Michele was flying in and we were booked on the same flight to the regional city. I got to the airport after checking out of the hotel, a few hours before Michele was due to arrive.

At check in I asked what seats we’d been allocated and whether there was any chance of sitting together. The nice person on the counter was most friendly and helpful, going out of their way to get us to within an aisle distance and the prospect of doing a swap. I got my boarding pass and headed off to the gate. I went through the first check point, took a body scan, and then went through security, handing over my boarding pass at each point and showing my passport at the initial check.

Got to the gate, bought a coffee, logged on, and got a bit productive – as one does – waiting for Michele. She duly arrived and we had a light late lunch and headed to the gate. Michele, of course, had done the same routine I had – initial passport and boarding pass check, body scan and security. We had another coffee and the flight was duly called.

Michele hands over her boarding pass and the person letting us through says “12C”. I hand my boarding pass over and I hear “12C”.

“We can’t both have the same seat number,” I say, to no one in particular. So they check my boarding pass, at which point Michele’s jaw drops. ‘My’ boarding pass had her name on it, as did hers. The kind person at check in had accidentally printed the wrong boarding pass. Meanwhile – maybe they thought I was French or, alternatively ……… – I had made it through the body scan and security and a check point as Michele. Furthermore, so had she.

Maybe the icing on the cake was the happy chortle from the gate attendant as my boarding pass was taken and my correct name simply entered into the boarding data.

I wonder if Michele will get away with just the scan next time she passes through. I’m honing my French, just in case, but I also have the grace to blush just a little each time I think of impersonating Michele under X ray specs. I hasten to add that I feel secure on all relevant dimensions.

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