Mumbai: On August 20, Hyderabad resident Jayakumar Bhavanishankar boarded Indigo flight 6E 247 for Mumbai from Rajiv Gandhi International Airport in Hyderabad. While collecting his baggage from the conveyer belt at the destination he noticed the side zips to a bag were open and the seal put on them by the airline was broken.
"I also found that that my Ray-Ban sunglasses worth about Rs 6,000 were missing. I brought the matter to the notice of airline, to which their baggage services personnel at the airport simply replied that seals were being put selectively, upon request by fliers. I found this answer unsatisfactory and it did nothing to improve my situation," Bhavanishankar told this newspaper. The above details are also part of Bhavanihankar complaint to the airline.
The passenger then mailed his grievance to the IndiGo customer relations department. The reply he received this time was not very encouraging either. "I would like to confirm that seal is used to safeguard the baggage and is applied as per passengers' request and is not followed as a policy.
We are therefore concerned to note your comments about the baggage services. Moreover, we wish to clarify that the baggage rules in the conditions of carriage (COC) state all medication, valuables and precious items (cameras, jewellery, money, mobile, electronics, etc) and items which are fragile or perishable should be carried in cabin baggage and not in checked baggage. IndiGo is not responsible for these items," read the August 22 email (copy with MiD DAY) of Neha Rohilla from customer relations of IndiGo.
"However, post investigation done with the help of the airport team, I personally assure you that a thorough search has been made at every possible location. But, we regret to inform that we have been unable to locate the said item," the message added.
After a series of emails from Bhavanishankar, the airline finally decided to compensate him with a travel voucher worth Rs 1,000, as a 'goodwill gesture', but it maintained it could not establish any pilferage with the registered baggage.
"While I appreciate that the airline listened to me, I do not agree with its statement. In my understanding this amounts to culpable admission for not enforcing due process because of which my bag was opened. There's an obvious lack of security and breach by criminals, who may be in cahoots baggage handling personnel," said Bhavanishanker, who has now decided to approach a consumer forum and Directorate General of Civil Aviation.
Sudhakar Reddy, national president, Air Passengers Association of India, said, "We strongly condemn airlines if they come out with such statements. It is definitely the duty of concerned carrier to ensure the safety of baggage till it is delivered to the passenger.
I have raised this issue again and again with the ministry and competent authorities, but such cases are on the rise. I will again bring up this point in upcoming meetings." Reddy is also member of Civil Aviation Economic Advisory Council of Ministry of Civil Aviation.
MiD DAY: Isn't it the airline's responsibility to compensate the passenger of his lost belongings?
As per conditions of carriage, compensation is provided as per the weight difference at Rs 200/kg between what gets checked in and gets delivered.
If baggage has been checked in, isn't it the duty of the airline to ensure its safe transit?
IndiGo seals all checked-in baggage wherever it's 'sealable'. If side pockets are not 'sealable', the check-in staff is trained to inform the customer to remove any valuables and carry them on his person, in his hand baggage. In this particular case, though it wasn't established that any item had gone missing, as a goodwill gesture, IndiGo provided the passenger a Rs 1,000 travel voucher.