Normally a late night arrival into an international airport you’re transiting through is straightforward. You arrive; you pass through passport control, find a bench or lounge, and go to sleep. But as with many things in my life, it appears as if John Cleese is the author of my daily life.
My flight today was scheduled to land at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport (SVO) at 1:00am; we arrived a few minutes early, a good sign. Landing early as snow is falling is not something most travelers experience often … but this was the good before the bad. Well it wasn’t bad; it was more like a sequence of WTF events that would be fantastic material for a screen comedy.
After deplaning Air France flight 1144 from Paris’ Charles de Gaulle International Airport at SVO I headed up the escalator to the Transfer area to check in for my flight 12 hours later on ward to New York’s JFK. Upon reaching the transfers area the check in desks were deserted, so I proceeded to passport control, which was dark and locked shut.
Trying to figure out my next move I went downstairs to Immigrations enquiring about being in transit back to the U.S. I was told to pass through passport control at the main immigrations checkpoint, when I informed them I have no visa, as I was in transit for under 24 hours. After a few quizzical looks I was told to go to the Transfer desk and wait, so back I went and waited, no one ever came.
Eventually I spotted an immigrations officer and explained to him I needed to pass through the transfers checkpoint. The immigrations officer unlocked a passport control booth and opened a lane for me. Upon entering the checkpoint I was waved through. The immigrations officer never checked my passport or onward travel documents; in fact he never took my passport out of my hand.
Now through passport control I was told to wait five minutes for a passenger screening agent. With that, the immigrations officer locked me in an area between passport control and passenger rescreening. This is not a fun place to wait, you cannot go in any direction, and I was between two security barriers.
After a few moments a security agent came to get me and walk me towards passenger screening. As I began to remove my jacket and belt the security agent motioned for me to leave them on. I turned towards the x-ray machine, put my bag down and pulled out my bottle of Coke to throw it out, as a 20oz bottle of Coke is not allowed through security, with that the security screener said “Bag, in bag. Goodbye” and she pushed my Coke back into my bag, then unlocked the door to the transfer area and pointed for me to go. As I walked out of security I took a quick look back and realized that the security screener never even turned on the x-ray machine or metal detector.
Now, inside the public passenger terminal area, I walked past a row of passengers comfortably asleep in asleep in the Transit Lounge (look at the photos below, it’ll all make sense) and made my way to Aeroflot’s Blues Lounge in Terminal D.
Now here is where it starts to get quirky and funny …
… upon entry into the Aeroflot lounge I realize I am the only person in the lounge. I sit down, plug my stuff in and settle in. When I enquired about food, since all the food in the lounge was stale, I was told to walk over to another Aeroflot lounge, the Jazz Lounge, and “quickly take their food and come right back.” I thought the lounge attendant, who seemed a little creepy, like a hooker looking for a john, was joking. After a few moments I realized she was serious.
After a few moments pondering how hungry I was I headed over to the Jazz Lounge, and as instructed, didn’t check in, I went to the left, walked up the buffet, then picked up two salads, six chocolate éclairs, and scurried back to the lounge where my bag was.
If that wasn’t odd enough, not long after returning with food to the 24/7 lounge, the lounge staff got on the elevator and left … leaving me absolutely alone in the Aeroflot Blues Lounge for roughly half-an-hour. No idea where they went or anything else, they just came back and sat behind the desk.
What an odd night here at SVO.
The photos below are a rough idea of how my night has gone here. This could have gone either way; luckily it is leaving me laughing.