Controlled chaos: Flying domestic in India

Actually, the suggestion that the chaos is under control is probably unfair. There was a tiny semblance of order, but it was only because I think everyone was tired for being awake at 5am, not because there was really any organization to the crazy.

This morning we flew from Chennai to Kochi, a quick hour across the southern tip of India on Jet Airways. The flight was ridiculously early when we booked it, a 6:55am departure. Then the schedule changes started to come in and we ended up, after 3 changes in a 6 week period, with a 6:15am flight, even though the boarding pass printed as a 6:25 departure. One last change in the 5 hours between OLCI and departure is no big deal, right?? Thanks to jet lag we were up at 4:30am anyways so at least we didn’t miss it.


The check-in process was typical for any Indian airport, I suppose. Only ticketed passengers (and, yes, you need a paper copy even if you have an e-Ticket) are permitted past the first security guards. Then there is a scrum/line to get checked bags screened and tagged. Then another scrum for check-in. We actually managed to do OK through those, partly because I don’t think the locals wanted to offend us and partly because we’re mostly bigger than them and I don’t mind pushing back a little.


Then it was into the line for security. Apparently there are actually two lines at this point, though one of them is not labeled. The regular line was moving well enough thanks to many frisking points open. But for those passengers who were running late there was a phantom line adjacent to the regular one. A steady flow of folks seemed to be moving past us as we waiting, mumbling something and waving boarding passes as they scurried past to the front of the checkpoint.

My other favorite part of the security line was the frisking process. Everyone gets frisked passing through the checkpoint. It is fast, efficient and done in a very respectful and professional manner. I was impressed.


The flight was rather uneventful. Exit row booked online 5 hours prior to the flight and the middle seat was empty between us. Blue skies flying over the clouds with the occasional mountain peeking through.


And then a full day of touristing in Kochi. More on that soon enough. Now it is time to reset my body clock and get on the local time zone.

Read more from the India/Sri Lanka New Years adventure here.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. You didn’t have to get the olci bp stamped and signed at checkin? πŸ™‚ not to forget the secondary check by 9W security just before boarding… πŸ˜€

    1. I didn’t have an OLCI BP printed out; I just did it in the hotel to get seats assigned and in case we were late getting to the airport in the morning.

      Most of the planes were using hard stands for boarding which meant front and rear. There are a few jet bridges but they seem to only be used for the bigger planes.

      And the departure board was awesome. A great collection of carriers and destinations. I didn’t really mention the crowds in the boarding “pen” waiting to get to the buses to get to the planes. It was reasonably calm (again, partly attributed to early morning) but still an impressive throng of humanity pressing to the gates.

  2. @Darren, yes, most airports in India still use remote boarding and hence they can board via 1L and 4L both.

    @Oliver2002, Secondary check is only done when there is a security threat notified and airports are put on high alert.

  3. I was at MAA last August, flying MAA-COK on Air India and saw these exact same things. The beauty is everything seems to work at the end of the day, inspite of the apparent ‘controlled chaos’ to the visitors. You will find that COK is much more orderly. Enjoy your visit!

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