The festive season is often synonymous with joy, lights, and celebrations. However, amidst the hustle and bustle, it can also be a time of stress and anxiety.
A perennial source of anxiety for air travellers, especially those making connections, is whether their checked-in baggage will arrive at their destination with them. And when it does not, as is happening increasingly with the revival of air travel following the Covid pandemic, it disrupts travel plans and forces passengers to endure the red-tape of filing claims with airlines, being inadequately compensated and waiting sometimes for days before their bags reach them.
A reliable report pointed out that last year the number of mishandled bags a gentle euphemism for bags not being on board more than doubled to 7.62 bags per 1,000 passengers, a reversal of a trend in the decade before the pandemic when modern systems had drastically reduced such incidents. The problem with international flights was acute, with a whopping 19.2 bags being lost per 1,000 passengers, nearly half of these incidents occurring on flight transfers. The worst performance was in Europe, followed by the United States, while the Asia-Pacific region suffered the least, reporting just over three bags lost per 1,000 passengers. Last week, though, an airline known for operating with the precision of the timepieces its country produces, managed to ferry 111 people from Zurich in Switzerland to Bilbao in Spain without a single piece of baggage on board. Swiss, the airline, said it could not load the bags on the plane because of a shortage of ground handling staff, and decided to send off the flight because not doing so would have thrown its schedule out of kilter.
The pilot waited over an hour at Zurich airport for the bags to be loaded, apologized for the delay, but according to passengers overlooked mentioning that the flight was taking off without baggage, leading to red faces all around when it landed a couple of hours later in Spain. The problem faced at Zurich airport is symptomatic of the travails the aviation industry faces worldwide, as traffic has surged but ground staff sacked during the pandemic has not been replaced in full measure.
While modern baggage tracking tools are expected to ensure that a passenger’s bags travel where she or he does, the system is prone to glitches, especially when transfer time between flights gets shortened because of delays. In such cases, ground staff lay emphasis on getting the passenger from one plane to another, sometimes without giving the same priority to baggage. Besides being shorter, that is the reason direct connections are preferred to those involving transfers. As Indians, especially those in the eastern region who must endure flight transfers because of the shortage of direct flights, prepare for holiday travel, they would do well to ensure their hand baggage has the essentials they will need. The bags they check in may travel slower than they do.