No tears: All passengers to Europe passed check-in

We are in Suvarnabhumi airport in Bangkok. The time is almost 22.00. In a few minutes the check-in counters for Thai Airways flights to Europe will open. We are here to see, if any passengers are refused boarding because they do not have the required documents or sufficient reason to travel.

There are fewer people than on an ordinary day. Some seem to bee cool, strolling around and taking their time. Others are power walking as they frantically look for the right check-in counter. Some sprint ahead off the others to secure themselves a good place in the queue in front of the check-in counters. When they get there, they are greeted by a buzzing sea of people waiting for the check-in to open.

The clock ticks as it nears 22.00 and the two lines grow longer and longer as families, friends and solo travelers’ race to join at the end of the queue, clearly desperate to not be the last person in the growing line of people. Most trolleys are stacked like towers with suitcases and colorful backpacks. Children use the suitcases on the trolley as a seat as they play on their phones while their parents whisper and check their boarding passes. People frequently clean their hands with hand sanitizer as they slip masks and gloves on. The air quickly becomes thick with the bitter smell of sanitizer.

Photo: Sofia S. Flittner-Nielsen.

Suddenly the line starts to move, just a few meters, as the first travelers hurry to the counters. The many faces are painted with relief as the line continues to move – but slowly. And as seconds turns into minutes the relief transforms into impatience. People tap their feet to an unknown beat, children ask their parents when they will get to the counters, people begin to wander around restlessly while constantly keeping an eye of the staff – some people make an attempt to cut the lines to get to the front quicker but are told to find the end of the queue.

A man wipes down his suitcase with hand gel and sanitizer. It seems irrational as the suitcase will surely pass many hands before it reaches his destination – why not save it to the moment when he takes it off the baggage band then?

The air fills with an anxious tension under the white fluorescent lights of the airport.

The closer people get to the counters, the more nervous they look. Their eyes flicker as they swallow. Some take their annoying masks off, rapidly talking to their co-travelers and frequently checking their passports. The reason for their anxiety is that Thai Airways can deny people access based on a list of instructions and criteria provided by the Embassies in Thailand. As the clock ticks, the tension intensifies: people want to go home. Will they allow me?

But despite the tension, check-in goes smoothly. People walk away from the check-in counters as they smile and hurry towards security. Some people sprint away from the counters through the hall to purchase passage for an either overweight or over-sized luggage.

The palpable tension peaks when the speakers cut through the low buzz of the last people waiting in line to announce that check-in is closing soon – and boarding to several flights has begun. The line isn’t long but the last few people begin to pace restlessly around their luggage trolley, their feet and hands tapping away.

But this evening ended smoothly – smooth as silk. Nobody were turned away at the check-in counter, everybody got their boarding tickets. No cries tonight – everyone got on their flights to Europe in time.

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