So I was all set for my vacation to the Rainbow Nation. My husband was on deputation with United Nations in Africa. We were separated for months and months together and were longing to see each other, what better than holidaying in the land of sunshine,seagulls, the big five and table mountain. So South Africa was our destination! We decided to meet or rather have a date at Johannesburg airport before embarking on our Garden Route journey. I had a domestic flight from Jammu to Delhi, then an International flight from Delhi to Dubai and a connecting flight thereafter from Dubai to Johannesburg. So both of us were to fly from our respective places to our pre-decided place, Johannesburg. I was too excited for my holiday and before leaving the house, everything had been checked and rechecked right from the passport, visa, important documents to shades, sunscreen, head phones, hand sanitizer, mobile charger and what not. Okay things were in control and I reached Jammu airport to catch Air India flight to Delhi and I was over the moon as it was my first international trip and meeting my husband after almost a year who was miles and miles away was giving me butterflies. The thoughts of lying in the hammock, soaking in the sun, sipping on the coconut water by the beach side, and exploring the holiday destination was making me go berserk. Wow how exhilarating it sounds, isn’t it?
I landed at IGI Delhi at 5pm and was waiting for my luggage by the carousel at T3. Well, there were around 200 passengers along with me waiting for their luggage. Slowly and slowly people started moving away with their luggage and it had been quite sometime, more than what it should’ve been..hmm never mind I mumbled to myself , I was thinking that in a minute or two would come my luggage too! From 200 passengers around 100 were left, then 50, few more suitcases but I was unable to spot mine. Now around 30 people were left then 10 and a point came when everyone had left. Now, I was the only one standing near the conveyor belt, watching it going round and round and round, with one abandoned bag which looked very similar to my bag but I knew it wasn’t mine. A chill went down my spine to realise that the inevitable had happened, I had lost my luggage and I had just 1.5 hours to catch my next flight. My head started filling with panic, what should I do, my level of anxiety rose exponentially. My flight with Emirates airlines was at 9:50 pm. It was already 6 pm as I had been looking around for help and spent an hour at the carousel waiting for the luggage which never came however, a similar looking bag did arrive and now I had a window of less than 2 hours.
I was between the devil and the deep blue sea! I guess I had lost my luggage to some careless passenger who didn’t even bother to match the tag with his name and just walked away mindlessly with my bag! And there was time crunch to find about my luggage as my next flight was in no time! With a sinking feeling I went over to the baggage claim and the airline help desk, their response was too callous and insensate which increased my already heightened agony. Had they wanted, they could’ve contacted the passenger but they never bothered to help. They were rude, had hair trigger temper and got furious to even basic queries and requests! Those females were munching and conveniently having tea! Wow how could people be so inconsiderate to someone’s plight? They told me very casually “Madam this happens on daily basis!” After much mucking about from the staff I decided to deal with it on my own. My calculative planning also went for a six when I realised how I had carefully kept several stacks of cash in various places and my luggage was obviously one of the places with a little more valuables, also few travel documents, a high end bag, makeup kit, all my clothes, few gifts for my husband. Everything seemed to have gone! This implied that I couldn’t even board Emirates flight even if I wanted as my travel documents were in the luggage. At this time, there was no way to know where the person was with my bag, when he might come or would he ever return my bag? And if yes then when?
The time was ticking away and the level of my anxiety was increasing.
Seeming like to reunite with my bag appeared to be bleak. And while I was trying to figure out what could be done, My husband’s colleague Major RP Salgar appeared from somewhere as God’s miracle and seeing me a little worried he asked if everything was alright, and I narrated him the entire incident in one breath. As a true gentleman like all men in the uniform are, he went out of his way to help me out, to an extent that he didn’t even bother about his own flight. We again requested the airline officials but things were falling on deaf ears. By then I had scanned that bag a million times with my eyes for any clue which could’ve helped me find the owner. I was still far far away to find anything even remotely close, Damn what to do? Shall I rummage through his bag for some clue? Except for to slit open the top pocket of the bag we were left with no option and were sure to have become Sherlock Holmes by then! As luck would have it, Major RP Salgar got his hands on a wedding card from which we interpreted that this guy had gone to attend a wedding. We thought to call up the number mentioned at RSVP. We called up but the person at the other end of the phone seemed to be unreceptive and busy, upon hearing the incident he got surprised and amused. He told us that there were more than 100 guests from Delhi who had come to Srinagar for the wedding so it’d be difficult for him to tell which of his guest was irresponsible to have galloped with somebody else’s luggage from the airport! Arghhh..Please tell who’s this guy to have run away with my bag, Oh God please help! We requested him to try a little harder and give us the contact number if possible, so he gave around 10-15 phone numbers! The airline announcements for EK 515 were adding to the cacophony at the airport, I was already muddled to find out about my luggage. At the same time I was tensed about my flight. Before I could call on those numbers, my parents called me up to ask if everything was fine and when is my next flight, they asked me to grab something to eat and enjoy. Little did they know about the ordeal I was going through, and like a normal chirpy daughter I was happily replying and told that yes I’ve had cold coffee, spinach corn sandwich and that I’m window shopping at duty free, strolling in a book store at the airport, I assured them not to worry and that I’d call once I reach Dubai. Also in my heart I knew which Dubai, when, where, how? Here everything had gone topsy turvy and I was talking about Dubai! I was running short of time rather I was racing against time and tried the first mobile number but no joy! Simultaneously Maj Salgar too was trying from his mobile, Second, third, fourth, fifth and so on.. hard luck! And the 13th time when I called up and asked the person to please check as he might’ve taken my bag accidentally to which he declined without even listening to me completely. After asking him few questions, it was confirmed that the possibility of him having my luggage was way too high. I requested and pleaded him to stop his car and open the boot to check if he had taken my luggage. He seemed to be in a hurry and reluctantly agreed to check and my voice went up two octaves when I heard that the luggage in the car wasn’t his! It was my luggage, I had put my name tag. The guy was on the way to Faridabad to his home, was about 15 km out of the airport, and knowing the Delhi traffic, the chances of getting my bag back again seemed to fade but I requested him and tried explaining the gravity of the situation. He still said he’d return it the next day and this time I lost it. I furiously said, “See first of all you’ve done this blunder of taking my bag and instead of being sorry you’re showing tantrums, commendable!” And told him that the next day I’d be flying somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean! So how the heck would I get my luggage back? Okay so he agreed to come back to IGI airport to give my bag back. (Oh! Being an angry young woman helped!)
Major RP Salgar and I were continuously in touch with this guy and asked him to expedite as I was so very close to getting my bag. At the same time I was perpetually making requests to the airline officials to give me some time, God only knows how after hours of mental torture we finally managed to find the guy who took my luggage. And just in nick of time we found it! When I finally set my eyes on my red bag, I thought my heart would break, My bag(my buddy) had been touring the streets of Delhi and Faridabad! I was now brimming with excitement to have finally cracked the mystery of my missing bag!
How it came back amidst all the odds, our reunion was sweet, sad and perfect. And once again I was ready to embark on my next leg of journey after this misadventure, haha finally!! And all this while my husband had no clue about the turmoil I was in as his phone was switched off! But it’s said, “All is well that ends well”. Not to mention, I really consider myself lucky to have found Major Salgar at the airport as without his help I wouldn’t have had made it in time. After this incident I made it a point that It shouldn’t ever happen again with me and learnt how one can minimise the chances of losing it. It was an eye opening and a learning experience, Also I don’t want anyone of you to ever go through what I had to, because all it takes is once to ruin a trip, so why not to be prepared beforehand with the nifty tricks that I’d be sharing with you all. I learned it the harder way though. See nobody is immune and this could happen to anyone and I’m sure has happened to many people reading this.
Before you fly-
1. Always use a carry on because that won’t get lost and would be with you till the end of the journey. Put the basic essentials in this bag. The valuables like jewellery, cash, medication, laptop should also be carried in your carry on bag. But make sure you check with the airlines regarding the weight, size and list of items which are permissible to carry.
2. No valuables whatsoever in your checked baggage. It’s a big No No. So never ever slash important documents in your luggage. You can live without clothes for a while but being stranded without money, phone or passport, is scary!
3. You like taking selfies? Ok now take one of your bag too! You may need to describe it to file a claim, also a picture can be forwarded to the other airports where the lost luggage is likely to wander, and this may help your belongings reach you much faster. Also I’d suggest you to make a list of the items that are inside the suitcase and take a picture of this as well.
4. Label your bag inside and outside. Colour tag your bag and it may clash with your outfit sometimes but you need to decide what is more important to you, momentary happiness of the dress or things of consequence in your bag! You may use bright or neon coloured duct tape or may go for a flashy suitcase, may be with the polka dots! Nobody would dare to take your flashy and snazzy suitcase as it would be too prominent to steal or even take it accidentally!
5.Tear off old tags. We sometimes don’t bother to remove the tags but it’s very important to rip off old baggage tags which another airline may have put on your bag. The key is to keep your bag as hassle free as possible during the journey.
Even if you walk up to the airline and file a claim, which I did, they wouldn’t bring it back unless the passenger is genuine and honest enough to bring it back. On the other hand if the luggage has some pricey and expensive items then, tough luck my friend!
When the bag is missing-
1. Don’t leave the airport, make a report for the lost bag, fill out the missing bag form at the airline baggage counter located near the baggage carousel. Keep a copy of the form and also any receipt for checked bag. As this documentation may later help in the compensation for your loss.
Lost luggage has a standard penalty set by International Air travel Association so which means you don’t get the full claim.
2. You need to fill out an online claim form for the airline lost bag compensation. You need to go to the airline’s website ‘lost bag/baggage.’
3. Last but definitely not the least is Patience, patience and patience. Don’t curl up in a ball and be a cry baby! I know it’s not that simple to remain calm in such a situation but believe you me, you’d be able to think rationally and the chances of reuniting with your bag becomes a lot higher! Isn’t that what you want? So, keep calm and act logically.
An average 21.8 million airport luggage is sent to the wrong destinations leaving the travellers in agony.
I’m not here to frighten you with these figures but this is a fact. But there’s always a small possibility for the airlines to lose your luggage. And, you never know when it is your destiny to have your luggage lost. Therefore, it’s always good to be prepared for the adversities. However, I wish this never happens to you and I’m sure if you follow the above given tips, you’re going to mitigate the chances of having your luggage misplaced.
Although most lost bags are usually delayed but the inconvenience it causes is nightmarish. But take it easy and don’t let it ruin your vacation, it’s just a travel hiccup and staying positive will surely help you sail through.
So this was my lost and found luggage tale. All sorts of things happen while you’re travelling, good as well as bad, it’s important to take it easy and gain experience and later sharing the laughter and learnings with one another, as such adventures can barely be forgotten!
And yes finally I did manage to reach South Africa which is breathtakingly beautiful, We drove the entire Garden route, Click here for more details.
Has someone taken your luggage from the carousel? Has an airline ever lost your bag? How did you handle? Do you have any tips to add? I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments section below.
Stay stylish and travel smart!