The arrival lounge at the Delhi airport has turned into a dumping ground for mishandled baggage with dense fog disrupting a number of flights.
While the godown meant to keep mishandled baggage is overstuffed with hundreds of bags and suitcases, the floor of the arrival terminal near the Customs office and the conveyor belts is covered with unclaimed luggage.
According to airline officials, the godown of the central warehousing is used to keep luggage that gets misplaced during flight movement. Officials claim that flight movements between India and the West is disrupted due to heavy snowfall in the US and Europe. Flight delays, cancellations and diversions due to heavy fog in Delhi and other north Indian cities have added to the trouble.
Officials said there are lot of instances when passengers reach Delhi and their luggage left behind at the place from where they boarded a flight, but it was brought back in another aircraft. Such luggage are kept at the Central Warehousing Corporation godown till the owner is found.
“But this godown is small and already overstuffed. Unclaimed luggage are lying all over and we are having difficulty in tracing them to match with the descriptions given by the passengers,” said a representative of air operators committee, requesting anonymity.
“The warehouse godown at T2 was much larger. While the T3 has been built to cater to 60 lakh passengers annually, the airport operator seems to have cut corners in constructing the godown and rather used the space for constructing shops,” said an airline official who did not wish to be named.
Senior customs officials said they have devised a strategy to clear such baggage faster. “After profiling the owner details, the origin and the destination of the luggage and screening it in the X-ray machines, if the luggage is found clean we will now clear it and let the airline officials take it to take it elsewhere,” additional commissioner (customs), IGAI, Ashutosh Baranwal said.
The Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL) officials, however, said the godown is large enough to handle 1,500-1,700 bags at a time.
“The airline and the customs have the tendency to use it as dumping ground. In case the baggage of a particular passenger is not traced within six weeks, the airline settles the case by awarding compensation to the passenger,” a DIAL spokesperson said.
Such unclaimed baggage should ideally be removed from the godown and auctioned immediately but it often continues to lie in the godown for months together, the spokesperson added.