For me, a seasoned traveler having lived abroad nearly half a century, air travel has never been more challenging. Especially internationally. Especially for mixed nationals.
I have lived in Europe so long, I may becoming one of those historic icons tourists love to visit!
With my savvy, I should be cool as a cucumber. Instead, I hyperventilate weeks before flying, knowing “what can go wrong will go wrong.” And more!
I have experienced every disruption possible except, thankfully, a plane crash.
Our latest travel saga started at the Delta counter at Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport where we waited to check baggage for our return flight to Switzerland via Amsterdam. Due to a technological glitch between code sharing companies Delta (MSP hub), Air France (Paris hub) and KLM (Amsterdam hub), my husband’s luggage could not be registered even though we mastered check-in online 24 hours before without a hiccup.
“Sorry Mr. Lechault, our computer flagged your name in red with DO NOT ALLOW TO TRAVEL status”
The desk agent's colleague saw our distress and offered his assistance by staring at the screen another ten minutes.
“Call the manager,” he insisted.
The manager arrived repeated the identical process and demanded, “Call the supervisor.”
An hour later, a starting line up of aviation personnel glared at the computer in front of us, while behind us the line grew down the terminal and out the door.
I searched for more documentation to permit our authorization to board the plane. International travelers never go to a airport anywhere on the planet without the mandatory paperwork. (ie.birth certificate, marriage license,US tax payment proof, children’s birth records, COVID vaccination card)
Uh oh. Dual citizenship?
Bring French and American passport. Swiss residency card.
Do multi-nationals qualify for an extra carry-on bag to haul aboard aforementioned official documentation?
Whaaat? You want to see a valid driver’s permit?
In the event of unforeseeable, adverse circumstances, you want me to pilot this plane with a Minnesota vehicle license?
Finally we board. Seven hours later, our flight touches down on Schiphol tarmac “on schedule.”
“It took so long to reach the gate,” Gerald said. “It’s like we landed in Belgium and taxied across the border to the Netherlands.”
With only an hour to catch our KLM flight to Geneva, we anxiously fidgeted in line at the customs gate. At the booth, I presented my US passport.
“M’am how long will you be staying in Switzerland?”
“I live there,” I said.
“Then I must see a Swiss residency permit,” she said. I dug out the darn document, issued under my French citizenship, which aroused suspicion. “Where is your other passport?”
“Madame, enter only the US with American passport,” the Dutch border official stipulated,“When arriving in the Netherlands or any other European country (except the UK) you must present your European passport.”
Aiihh the last time, I was reprimanded for switching passports during transit. However, never argue with the official in front of you, even if you cannot understand rules that change overnight.
Starting in the near future (supposedly May 2025), American passport holders traveling to 30 European countries will need an authorization via the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS).
This is similar to the ESTA requirement that the US has always demanded of European visitors. Tit for tat or part of the legitimate security regulations in ever increasing unsafe world.
We hurried to the boarding gate just before it closed. I flashed my ticket and French passport and slipped through the turnstile. As I headed down the tunnel, I heard,
“Pat, wait. I can’t fly!” my husband hollered on the other side of the gate. “My passport’s gone! I’m going back to see if I dropped it where we last stopped.”
Naturally traveling with me, our last stop was the ladies room.
As he sprinted back through the terminal, I searched the pouch of my old fashioned bum bag. (I know. Does anyone wear those anymore?)
From my magic money belt, I retrieve not one, not two, but three passports.
How did Gerald’s passport jump in my fanny pack? I never carry his passport, credit cards, cell phone, wallet or keys. Never.
I dashed back through the terminal and smashed into my husband racing toward me.
“My passport is lost!”
“I found it!” I screamed, waving the priceless booklet like a billion dollar lottery ticket.
At last, we boarded the Geneva flight. Still, I wondered, what happens to the poor beleaguered passengers that lose passports in transit?
Could we apply for asylum in Amsterdam?
How long does it take to build a house in Holland?