VIP privileges at airports: Never frisked, sometimes driven to aircraft

Some, by virtue of being VIPs, are spared the need to be frisked at airports the way ordinary fliers are. Some VIPs are not only allowed to avoid frisking but also given an extra privilege: their vehicle can drive right up to the aircraft. Some others are ferried to the aircraft on health rather than security grounds.

The flier's position in politics, government or the judiciary usually determines the privileges he or she is entitled to, but there have been exceptional cases. At a time the government is planning to review such privileges, a look at some VIPs and how airports deal with them:


All Supreme Court judges are exempted from pre-embarkation security checks. Justice Dalveer Bhandari no longer holds that privilege, having been appointed a member of the International Court of Justice. Yet he enjoys the status of being "equivalent to a Supreme Court judge" and is therefore to be extended all other associated courtesies and protocol that SC judges are entitled to at airports.

The civil aviation ministry and the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) have refused to include high court judges in the list of exemptions and referred the matter to the Supreme Court, where it is currently pending. This month, the ministry issued a directive to extend protocol to Justice Bhandari, but didn't include his name in the list of VIPs exempted from frisking. That would require the home ministry's approval.

Mayawati, not Mulayam

Former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati is among those allowed to take their car right up to the aircraft, and with an armed escort. Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav doesn't have this privilege and neither has his father, former chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav.

Mayawati's entitlements were finalised on a day of bargaining that saw three amendments to the civil aviation ministry's order before she was satisfied, said a ministry official. The first order allowed Mayawati's car along with her personal security officer. The second order added the phrase "for one year" and upset the BSP, whose MP Satish Mishra reportedly took it up. In the third directive, the phrase "for one year" was replaced with "until further orders", effectively making it what many view as a lifelong privilege. The third order also allowed an armed escort of four to six personnel.

Others driven

The President, the prime minister and others covered by the Special Protection Group head the list of VIPs whose vehicles can be driven to the aircraft. Others who have been given vehicular access include former deputy prime minister L K Advani, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa and the Dalai Lama. The list includes former civil aviation ministers currently holding another Union cabinet portfolio, such as Praful Patel, Vayalar Ravi and Ghulam Nabi Azad. Foreign heads of state visiting India, too, get vehicular access. So do state governors and chief ministers, but only at airports within their respective states.

Health grounds

A ferry service entitles the flier to a vehicle that will be driven to the aircraft. This is usually done on health grounds. The BCAS last week issued orders allowing ferry services to Mata Amritanandamayi. Also this month, the BCAS had permitted BJP leader Shatrughan Sinha ferry access on health grounds. Shankaracharya Jayendra Saraswathi and Balgangadhar Nath Swami, and former Tamil Nadu chief minister M Karunanidhi too are driven to the aircraft on health grounds.

Turning it down

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and SPG-covered Priyanka Gandhi have set a precedent, opting to stand in queue like ordinary fliers.

Please read our terms of use before posting comments
TERMS OF USE: The views expressed in comments published on are those of the comment writer's alone. They do not represent the views or opinions of The Indian Express Group or its staff. Comments are automatically posted live; however, reserves the right to take it down at any time. We also reserve the right not to publish comments that are abusive, obscene, inflammatory, derogatory or defamatory.