Camilla (name changed on request), an educationist in the UK, boarded a British Airways (BA) flight from Heathrow to Calcutta late last month to visit friends in town.
On reaching Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport, she found a suitcase ‘missing’. “I was carrying two suitcases but one of them has not arrived. There were 20 other passengers on the flight who faced similar problems,” Camilla told Metro. “I finally got back my luggage two days later.”
Mohana Ray was less lucky. Having travelled from London to Calcutta by BA, post-8/10 scare in the air, her baggage was reported missing. It was traced and returned to her a few days later, but several valuable items — most hurriedly transferred from hand baggage to check-in luggage for security reasons — were not to be found.
These are no stray cases. With severe restrictions being clamped on hand baggage by airlines following the terror threat to blow up flights mid-air, timing is not the sole casualty. Missing baggage — or items that would otherwise be carried as cabin baggage going missing — has become the bane of air travel in recent weeks.
“We do agree that there have been problems with registered luggage but the situation has improved now,” admitted a BA spokesperson. “There was a backlog in passenger registered luggage after the London incident due to delays at the airport for flights operating out of Heathrow because of extra security measures.”
For every “mishandled baggage”, the spokesperson added, a passenger fills up a form that is fed into the airline’s system and then the lost item is tracked.
“Baggage goes missing quite regularly. But after the heightened security measures and the increase in registered luggage, the cases have gone up dramatically,” said Anil Punjabi, chairman (east), Travel Agents Federation of India.
In the domestic sector, an officer at the airport police station referred to “complaints about missing baggage or goods stolen from passengers travelling in some low-cost airlines”.
The travel advisory: report early and fly light to minimise delays and curb chaos.
According to Calcutta airport officials, the key to the problem is delay caused by heightened security. “Various security measures are being followed now even for registered luggage. It undergoes various layers of security check,” an official explained.
“In case of transit passengers, there is also a delay in transferring baggage from one flight to another that is causing problems,” he added.
The airlines are struggling to cope with the sudden rise in registered luggage. Their nature has changed as well, with passengers no longer allowed to carry perfumes, gels, cosmetics and other items as cabin baggage.