Getting off of an international flight has its own set of unique rules that are different for every country. For example, I was surprised when I saw that the United Kingdom allows you to use your cell phone while waiting in line to clear passport control, which was nice since the line at Heathrow for non-UK or EU residents was over 90 minutes long when we arrived a couple of years ago. The only thing not allowed was the taking of pictures or video while in the secure area.
When entering the United States, the rules are quite different. You’re not allowed to use your phone or a camera AT ALL until you clear passport control, collect your bags and clear U.S. Customs. On my last flight, I found out what happens to someone who chooses to ignore that rule.
We had just landed on a flight from London. Thanks to Global Entry, we were through Passport Control in under five minutes, but that meant we had to wait for the baggage to be unloaded from our flight. While at the baggage carousel, I decided to rearrange the items in my pockets, since I had haphazardly threw them in there when getting off the plane. This included removing my phone to move it from one pocket to another.
Almost immediately I heard a guard behind me say “NO PHONES!” and, not knowing if it was directed to me or not (I think it was), I immediately returned my phone into my other pants pocket.
I learned my lesson and my phone stayed in my pocket until I claimed my baggage and was clear into the terminal building. The same was not true for another passenger on my flight.
As a larger crowd gathered around the baggage carousel, I again heard “NO PHONES!” yelled out from behind me. I looked up and saw that a woman on the other side of the carousel was talking on her phone.
“PUT IT AWAY…..NOW!!!!!!”
Have you ever watched a person make a series of poor decisions all in a row?
The woman raises her hand and waves off the officer. Bad life choice, lady.
Next thing I know, the officer is sprinting, pushing me out of the way and climbing OVER the carousel towards her. It was as awkward and shocking as you’d imagine.
Sharon was standing behind me and saw the officer run by and her observation was, “He had a handgun in the secure area, he’s not the one you should be messing around with.”
However, this woman had a special kind of something as she said to the officer as he rushed towards her, “I’m almost done with my call.” That’s another REALLY poor decision, lady.
“HANG UP NOW!”
Nope. She starts to tell the person on the phone what’s happening.
Officer then goes to take the phone from her hand, which she tries to resist, but loses, and the officer hangs it up.
“I was almost finished! What’s your problem?” Some people never learn.
“GIVE ME YOUR PASSPORT!!!!”
Things just got real, and fast.
She still goes at the officer, who now has backup waiting.
The officer wasn’t waiting to hear what she is trying to say. He didn’t care.
“YOU HAVE TWO CHOICES. YOU HAND ME YOUR PASSPORT AND WE WALK BACK TO PASSPORT CONTROL OR YOU’RE ON THE GROUND RIGHT NOW IN CUFFS! DECIDE!”
The woman made her first good decision of the night and handed over her passport as they walked back towards the passport control area.
All of the other passengers were in a sort of shocked amazement at the sheer stupidity of this woman. If she had just hung up the phone, she would have gotten a stern warning but would probably be on her way home. Now, we were sure she would be sitting in an empty room waiting to be interviewed by an officer who doesn’t really care why she was on the phone, or who with, but more so why she ignored the orders of a border control officer and let’s check what’s on your phone.
So just remember, you can’t use your phone in the secure area when clearing U.S. Customs and Immigration and if a Customs Officer gives you a direct command, follow what they say.
Sorry we don’t have any pictures or video of the incident…;-)
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary