Dubai: Most people keep photos, videos and souvenirs to cherish memories of their trips. But Indian expat Sahad Sattar has been keeping airline boarding passes instead, even after the air miles are credited.
Hailing from the south Indian state of Kerala, Sahad, 45, started this hobby since his first flight on the now-defunct East-West Airline from Calicut to Bombay (Mumbai) and the Air India flight from Bombay to Dubai in September 1995. A travel manager in Dubai, Sahad has collected the boarding passes of all of his 251 flights to over 20 countries on 30 airlines. He has a total collection of over 500 boarding passes of his entire family of eight.
This week, the father of six got his 252nd boarding pass when he took a “special” flight from Dubai to Kannur in Kerala on Wednesday.
With this trip, he marked another milestone. He was aboard the inaugural flight from Kannur International Airport to Abu Dhabi International Airport on December 9, 2018. He was also a member of the “Historic Flight” WhatsApp group of around 100 expats who celebrated the airport’s first anniversary by flying on the same route on the same day in 2019 by wearing uniform jackets.
Speaking to Gulf News, Sahad shared his joy of flying once again to the airport in his hometown on its second anniversary after having had to put the brakes on his frequent flight journeys during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pointing to himself in the photo of the first anniversary trip published by Gulf News, he said he missed his friends and community members who flew together again to reenact their dream trip and also to seek further development of the airport. However, he was delighted to get his next boarding pass in his collection during his journey to see his mother on the second anniversary of the airport.
Apart from the boarding pass of his maiden flight from Kannur, the prized possession in Sahad’s collection is a boarding pass of the historic “Tolerance Flight” – EK2019 – operated by Emirates to mark the Year of Tolerance on November 29, 2019. “Those two flights were really special,” he said, explaining their significance.
“Kannur is my hometown and being an expatriate for 25 years, I have struggled a lot to as I had to travel by road for almost the same time of the flight from Dubai earlier when I had to depend on Calicut or Cohin airport. Now, it takes less than half an hour for me to reach my home.”
“I am sure Kannur airport, which recently reported two million passengers, will one day become a top airport in India. I am proud that I was one of the inaugural flight passengers. I had gone home for just five days only to catch that flight on return.”
He said he felt privileged to be a part of Emirates Tolerance Flight which flew 500 passengers from 145 nationalities, breaking the Guinness World Record for carrying people of the “most nationalities.” “I first heard about that flight from an email from Emirates Skywards which asked people to register for this special flight. I am extremely happy that I managed to get a seat on the flight that got a Guinness World Record and showcased the diversity of the people who live in this country of tolerance.”
Boarding passes collected during his honeymoon flight from Mumbai to Hong Kong in 2000, which was a surprise gift to his wife Nadiya, and subsequent family trips with their Dubai-born children — Bilal, Basil, Maryam, Ammaar, Zainab and Sara — to Bangkok, Singapore, Malaysia, Amsterdam, Turkey, USA, Prague etc. are also memorable ones for Sahad.
Gulf News had previously written about how his sons Bilal and Basil had to travel for 46 hours to reach Dubai from Kerala by flying via the US due to travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Undoubtedly, the first thing that Sahad collected from them when they reached home were the boarding passes of their flights from Calicut to Delhi, from Delhi to Chicago and from Chicago to Dubai.
Why this hobby?
Asked if he had any intention to set a record by chasing this special hobby, Sahad replied in the negative. “This was really not planned. After a couple of flight trips, I decided to collect the boarding passes of all my flights whenever possible,” he said,
Admitting that his profession in the travel industry has influenced the decision, Sahad said: “Ten years ago, I used to work with different travel agencies and I traveled because of staff tickets. My current job also involves a lot of travel. Obviously, my profession has influenced me in choosing this hobby.”
He said he used to collect ticket jackets also till airlines started issuing eTickets from 2008. “Some years back all airlines started online check-in and issued online boarding passes. I always check-in online. Though there is no need to carry physical boarding passes, I request check-in counters to reprint the boarding passes for this purpose only.”
“When you see these boarding passes, they bring back all precious moments like the first trip, the honeymoon trip, family trips, other trips that are not forgettable,” said Sahad, noting that his latest trip wearing protective gear during the pandemic would remain a special one.
Storage and safety
Sahad said he is aware that boarding passes can reveal crucial passenger information and hence they should not be discarded irresponsibly as criminals could misuse them. “Anyhow, mine are always safe with me,” he said, laughing.
Sahad had safely stored all his boarding passes in normal folders and has now got them framed in his apartment in Dubai. “Every two to three months, I check them and make sure there is no spoilage. Almost all of them are in good condition.”
There could be many more frequent flyers in the UAE who have taken several more flights than Sahad did. But he considers his collection of boarding passes as his prized possession and now plans to laminate them.
Did you know?
The largest collection of airline boarding passes belongs to another Indian, according to Guinness Book of World Records. K. Ullas Kamath possessed 3,030 passes as verified in Bengaluru on August 15, 2014, states the website of Guinness.