Is India overly bureaucratic? We were about to find out for ourselves.
Our flight itinerary was Ottawa, Toronto, Delhi, Kathmandu, with an overnight layover in Delhi. We had two options regarding the layover, obtain a transit visa for our less-than-24 hours in India or stay in the International Transit zone of the Delhi airport and not officially enter India.
Option two’s success was fully dependent on Air Canada agreeing to check our bags through from Ottawa to Kathmandu. That was by no means a sure thing since the final leg was booked on a separate ticket with a different airline. Air Canada could not confirm anything in advance. We would find out if they agreed on departure day. The kicker was that India does not offer a visa-on-arrival option for Canadians. Not getting an Indian transfer visa was a calculated risk.
I’ll say it added a degree of excitement to planning the trip (or stress depending on how you see it). What would happen if we were not successful in getting our bags checked through? Would we face the same complex bureaucracy in Delhi as we did when we applied for our Indian tourist Visa? What happens if you try to enter India without a visa in hand? Are you immediately put on a flight back to your country of origin, do you face a hefty fine or, worst, detention?
Air Canada agreed to check the bags through, but with a huge caveat that we might still have to claim them in Delhi. When we landed after a 14-hour flight and nearly 24 hours in transit, we met Sanjeev, the ground agent for Air Canada. Before we had a chance to state our case, he asked if we were the passengers in seats 37A and B. “You’re the ones connecting to Kathmandu. We know about your luggage, we’ll make sure it gets on the plane tomorrow.” Then we were directed to an agent for Jet Airways, the airline we were booked on, who said he would personally “confirm” our luggage was transferred for tomorrow’s flight. Then, a second Jet Airways agent, Gurpreet, finalized our booking and issued our boarding passes.
We were good to go. No bureaucracy, only charm and a sincere desire to help us.
Nonetheless, despite all these assurances, I sure breathed a sigh of relief when I saw our three bags come rolling towards us on the carousel at the Kathmandu airport.