For the past three days Smita Jani, a Miami resident of Indian origin, has been contemplating shopping for clothes for a wedding she has to attend on Thursday.
Jani landed in Mumbai on December 25 but her luggage, which had her wedding wardrobe, jewellery and other belongings, went missing.
After a nerve-racking wait, Gulf Air officials traced and returned her baggage on Wednesday. "I wouldn't have had any option other than shopping all over again, had I not got the baggage back on time," she said. The massive snowstorm across Europe and the US as well as the Delhi fog have not just left passengers stranded at airports but also left them endlessly calling airline call centers looking for missing baggage.
Sources at the airport said the amount of misplaced baggage has increased by 15% to 20% this month. "Worst affected are international passengers arriving from the UK or the US," said a ground staff with a foreign carrier.
The problem was compounded for travelers who made multiple break journeys. Sumit Ghoshal, for instance, had two stopovers - at Paris and Dubai - while returning from New York to Mumbai. "When I landed at Mumbai, all I had was my laptop and the clothes I was wearing," said Ghoshal. Misplaced baggage has also been the second highest grouse of domestic passengers. According to data from the civil aviation ministry, 26 % of the complaints against domestic carriers in November were about misplaced baggage.
In August, missing baggage complaints comprised 11 % of the total complaints. The complaints have doubled given the increase in passenger traffic, airlines such as Air India and Jet Airways shifting base from Mumbai to Delhi and beginning of the fog season.
The civil aviation ministry's policy to compensate passengers for delays, flight cancellations and denied boardings does not cover misplaced baggage. "We had suggested a provision for missing baggage but the ministry ignored it," said Sudhakar Reddy, national president, Air Passenger Association of India.