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Clutch on to your bag while travelling

The number of lost bags and "mauled" luggage is up and counting, reports Chanchal Pal Chauhan.

india Updated: May 26, 2006 09:46 IST

Lost your bags? Blame it on the poor man's "maharaja" -- the glut of low-cost airlines that choke the skies with their crammed liners. Competitive tariff and the sudden throng of "inexperienced players" in the domestic aviation sector have found an unwitting casualty -- baggage. The number of lost bags and "mauled" luggage is up and counting.

It was boom-time for the sector last year with over 65 million passengers taking to the skies. Rough estimates cite that almost one in every 10 passengers faced "bad baggage" days. That roughly works out to 6.5 million harried flyers. As most of them were rookies -- post-travel aches proved rather cumbersome.

Take Mumbai's Shashi Kapoor for instance. The overweight matron was flying to Mumbai from Hyderabad on an Air Deccan flight. Loaded with jewellery and goodies, she was returning to Mumbai after attending her son’s wedding. Despite the boarding pass listing Delhi as her destination, she managed to make it to Mumbai. But horror awaited her at the airport.

She scanned the conveyor belt belching up baggages. But her’s was nowhere in sight. Deccan Air officials at the aiprort told her bags may have been misplaced or routed somewhere. They registered a complaint.

Two months and several frantic inquiries later, the airlines agreed to fork out Rs 3,000 as damages for her 15-kg bag. But Kapoor cried a loss of Rs 50,000 and moved the consumer court. On another occasion, 30 passengers flying into Mumbai from Delhi and Bangalore by a low-cost carrier had to wait for over three hours to reclaim their bags. Says Sudharara Reddy, president of the Air Passengers’ Association, “Such complaints are on the rise. But the economy carriers have compounded the problem. They do not have proper baggage handling prodecures.” 

Statistics worldwide say 1.7 billion bags are handled by airlines every year of which less than one per cent is “manhandled” costing $100 for each “hit”.

But the figures are much higher in India as travellers here have a penchant for overloading themselves.

Air Deccan spokesperson Vijaya Menon avers. “We were bombarded with complaints from Mumbai and had to streamline the process. We asked the outsourcing agency to change tack and things are looking up,” she said. The compensation procedure is faulty. Airlines pay Rs 3,000 for every baggage lost, but the actual  loss is often much higher.

In an bid to make the baggage check and transfer more consistent, the civil aviation ministry had planned to introduce single agency concept in X-raying registered baggage, but the scheme came a cropper. Both Air India and Indian (Airlines) resisted the move as they have virtual monopoly on baggage handling.