US airport experience:Upset Patel for quid pro quo

Last Updated: Friday, October 22, 2010 - 00:51

New Delhi: Stung by his "annoying"
experience at London-Heathrow and Chicago`s O`Hare airports in
the recent past, Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel has
mooted a quid pro quo policy over the issue of extending
courtesies and protocols to visiting foreign VIPs.

Patel has directed his Ministry to suggest to the
External Affairs Ministry that this policy be adopted for
protocols on a country-to-country basis in the same manner as
the courtesies extended to Indian dignitaries abroad.

The two Ministries are now working on framing a fresh
policy guideline for visiting dignitaries, both on official
and private visits, officials said here today.

The directive came after the Minister was questioned
by US immigration officials at O`Hare Airport late last month
after his name and date of birth matched with that of another
person reportedly on watch-list. US Administration officials
had later apologised for the mistake.

Patel had the "annoying" experience at Heathrow in
London in March this year when he had gone for a review
meeting and was later slapped a bill of Pound 416 for using
the lounge at the new Terminal 5.

A senior official said Patel has suggested that
"equivalent charges be levied, on a reciprocal basis, with all
those countries whose airports charge for use of their VIP
lounges".

In a letter to the External Affairs Ministry, the
Civil Aviation Ministry said Patel has also recommended that
the MEA should consider "differentiating between the use of
the lounge by foreign VIPs for official and private purposes,
and, should a lounge be used during a private journey,
appropriate charges be levied upon the individual concerned".

Recalling his March experience at the Heathrow
airport, the letter said that on arrival itself, the Minister
"observed the impractical reception system for VIPs upon
commissioning of Terminal 5 as compared to the earlier system
of reception of VIPs at that airport".

"This added inconvenience apart from being annoyingly
time-consuming and involving extra travel, it also entailed a
payment of GBP 416 per use of that terminal", the letter said.

Sources close to the Minister confirmed that the
Standard Operating Procedure similar to the one in practice
should be drawn separately for each nation.

So far, India has been extending all courtesies and
related protocols to visiting dignitaries at the country`s
airports wherever they travelled, even when they were on
private visits. No charges are levied when these dignitaries
access VIP lounges at airports.

India also exempts foreign VIPs from security checks,
a policy which could now be reviewed, the sources said.

There have been several instances of Indian leaders
including George Fernandes being searched in the US in the
past.

-PTI



First Published: Friday, October 22, 2010 - 00:51

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