People travelling to India (kids born in USA or Indian US citizens) from USA are not allowed to board the flight through Europe if they do not carry their PIO card with them.
We were recently travelling to India on vacation. Our flight was from Atlanta to Mumbai via Amsterdam. We started from Atlanta on time and reached Amsterdam on schedule. As we were going through the security check to board the flight to India in the Amsterdam airport, the Airline officials asked us to produce all of our passports and our daughter’s ( who is born in USA) PIO card. Damn.. We did not have her PIO card with us. Unfortunately, the PIO card had gotten in one of the checked-in bags by mistake when we left home in Atlanta and had realized it when we boarded the flight in Atlanta. I had absolutely no idea that the PIO card will be asked in Europe, since it is an Indian visa document and my impression was that, it will be asked only in India immigration and we can tell them that it is in checked in bag and produce there when we reach. Other assumption was that, since my daughter is born in US, she would not be asked for Indian document in Europe. I was totally wrong. The officials said that without the PIO card they cannot let us board the flight to India, even if they do, the immigration officials in India will deport us back to USA from India and also slam the Airline with a minimum penalty of $5000. They cannot take that risk and will not let passengers without PIO card to board the flight. We were really panicked. The airline officials tried to help us though. They asked me to guess which bag it could be in so that they can go and check the bags. When I asked if I can go and check the bags myself, they said that they cannot allow us to go check the bags for security reasons. I mentioned them the bags that I could best guess. But unfortunately, the PIO card wasn’t in those bags that the officials searched. They further said they cannot open all the bags for time constraint when I requested them to do so. Apparently, they did not let us board the flight and offloaded all our checked-in bags from the aircraft in Amsterdam and the flight took off leaving us back. We had a visa appointment scheduled the next day of our expected arrival date in Mumbai; we missed even that since we wouldn’t reach before the visa appointment day. To make things worse, they did not let us go and claim the bags even after offloading them. They said we need to have Shengen visa to go to baggage area since it is outside of Airport checkpoint already. Funny thing was, I was able to see the bags right in front of me over the shoulder of the security official, but couldn’t go up to it. Needed visa to walk 20 steps to the bags. What the heck!
I had to then approach the Airport security, get special permission from the local police station to get an escort to accompany me to the baggage claim and search my bags. A lady security official escorted me to the baggage area. I searched and luckily found the PIO card inside one of the bags. I thanked god! I cheered on the victory of getting it finally. The lady official who escorted me smiled at me and cheered too. If I hadn’t got the PIO card, we would had to return back to US. One Indian lady who was travelling along with us and who was an US citizen was deported back to US right in front of us, since she was not carrying the PIO card with her and had forgotten it at her home in US.
Later, I had to approach the airline helpdesk back again, tell them the whole story and ask for issuance of new tickets. We were lucky that we could get a next day’s flight and didn’t had to pay anything for the re-issuance of the tickets though it was our own fault. Remember that not all Airlines allow this; it is only Delta Airlines that does this I heard, thanks to Delta Airlines. If it were some other Airline, we had to pay heavy price for re-issuance of new tickets at market price, which would be anything from $4000 – $5000 for 3 of us travelling. We had to spend an entire day in the Airport. We rented a hotel which cost 120 Euros for a night and which was worse than a dormitory in India. The food in the airport was bad and utterly expensive. We couldn’t get proper food for my daughter either. We didn’t get proper sleep in that pigeon hole hotel room. For one simple mistake we had to pay a heavy price, had to go through lot of tension and wasted precious time. We boarded the next day’s flight and reached India safely.
So all of you who are traveling to India (especially with kids born in USA or if you are US citizen yourself), make sure you always keep the PIO card with you along with other travel documents. Do not leave them by mistake in the checked in bags or forget them back at home. People may think I’m foolish to commit such mistake, but shit happens sometimes :). Just want to make people aware of this so that they don’t have to go through the hassle and pain we had to go through. Remember, it is very painful to go through it.